From High School drop-out to recipient of 4 college degrees, Jesse Lewis, Sr. has earned many titles including World War II Veteran, College President, Author, Advertising Executive, and Newspaper Publisher. From the very beginning Dr. Jesse J. Lewis, Sr. has always lived by the motto, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” And for Lewis, hard work has brought him a lot of luck as a businessman and entrepreneur.
Lewis was born on January 3, 1925, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. At the age of 16, he dropped out of high school and joined the United States Army. He served as an infantry soldier during World War II and participated in the European Operation. After leaving the Army, Lewis finished high school and enrolled at Miles College earning a degree in accounting and business administration. While at Miles, Lewis was introduced to the world of marketing and advertising, which started his journey on a path that few African-Americans had taken, and during a time when marketing in the black community was virtually nonexistent. Lewis continued his education and received his master’s from Troy State University and doctorate from Atlanta University. He later became president of Lawson State Community College.
In 1954, Lewis opened Jesse J. Lewis and Associates advertising agency, one of the first black-owned agencies in the United States. In 1963, Lewis started the Birmingham Times, a weekly black-oriented newspaper. Needing revenues to support this new venture, in true entrepreneurial spirit, Lewis negotiated a deal with Joe Bruno, founder of Bruno’s Grocery Store to run a full-page weekly ad in the Birmingham Times for $40 per week and to ensure that the printing presses kept rolling he requested payments in advance. After more than 30 years of running the Birmingham Times, Lewis sold the newspaper to his son James in 1994, but he continues to work as a contributing writer for the Times. In addition to his work in the advertising and publishing arenas, Lewis was a principal owner of the first Black-owned Walgreen Drug Store in Alabama, founder and president of Lewis Mortgage Investment Company, author of three books, and is currently President and CEO of The Lewis Group, a political, project and policy consulting firm.
Dr. Jesse J. Lewis, Sr. is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He is married to Helen M. Lewis and the father of two sons.
Sheamon D. McCants