Baltimore's Lewis memorialized as entrepreneur, philanthropist

January 26, 1993|By Ian Johnson | Ian Johnson,New York Bureau

NEW YORK -- More than 1,000 mourners crowded into a Harlem church yesterday to pay homage to Reginald F. Lewis, the Baltimore native who became one of the nation's most successful black entrepreneurs.

The three-hour memorial to Mr. Lewis, who died last week of brain cancer at age 50, included prominent national figures such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, New York Mayor David Dinkins and opera star Kathleen Battle. In addition, national and international business figures, as well as family members, spoke about Mr. Lewis' influence on their lives.

A videotape about Mr. Lewis' life was shown, and musical interludes, including Ms. Battle's stirring rendition of "Amazing Grace," punctuated the service in the Riverside Church, a towering landmark along the Hudson River.

Besides recognizing Mr. Lewis' success as a businessman, which included a $1 billion purchase of Beatrice International in 1987, speakers noted his inspirational role to millions of black Americans.

"Reginald Lewis proved to us all, and especially us African Americans, that a dream deferred need not dry up like a raisin in the sun," Mr. Dinkins said.

Mr. Jackson said too much attention has been paid to Mr. Lewis' spectacular acquisitions in the 1980s and to his estimated $400 million net worth. Many people forget that he was also a great philanthropist who gave away millions of dollars to U.S. and Third World organizations, Mr. Jackson said.

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