BLACK HISTORY MONTH PROFILE — Dr. Jeffery Lewis making history daily
Published 12:20 am Friday, February 9, 2024
Business and education leader Dr. Jeffery Lewis feels all children are entitled to an education, and every child deserves an opportunity.
“And that’s what I’m here for,” said Lewis, Bob Hope High School assistant campus director.
His goal is to see students become productive while seeking their own goals in life.
Lewis had a start in life with Louisiana-born parents Howard and Florence. His dad lived one life in Louisiana, he said, and his mother a totally different type. Her family were sharecroppers and she recalled picking cotton. Later his grandfather owned his own property.
His family strived for and achieved success. His aunt, Maggie Henry, was the first African American pediatric director at St. Mary Hospital. His dad was the first African American cardiac perfusionist at St. Mary Hospital, and his mom was the first African American manager of a jewelry store in Southeast Texas.
“So, you know I have tough shoes to fill, but they have really taught me the value of being an African American person in business or in education,” he said. “The idea is to do as much as you possibly can to create a positive environment, giving the best image you can possibly give.”
Choosing his path
After Lewis graduated from Bishop Byrne Catholic High School, he went on to college with the idea of becoming a radiologist, not an X-ray tech, but a radiologist, he said. That is until he went into the Allied Health Department at Lamar while taking biology and said “oh no, I’m out of this.”
Lewis said there have been many African American leaders go through life and do wonderful things but there are other cultures out there doing all kinds of wonderful things.
Lewis got his start in the business world working for Alter’s Gem Jewelry as a teenager and later at Thea Bowman Academy, which was then located on St. James Catholic Church property, teaching PE and religion.
He went on to work at the church as the business manager for eight years. Later, Dr. Paula Richardson gave him the opportunity to work at Tekoa Academy, a local charter school, and teach the students how to play drums.
He ended up working at Tekoa as a special assistant to the CEO (Richardson) and was in a position where he was helping the kids envision a change.
At one point after leaving Tekoa, he ran into Bob Hope Charter School Superintendent Dr. Bobby Lopez, who said if he ever wanted to get back into charter education, there would be a place for him. He ended up taking the job and working at the Beaumont campus before being promoted to the high school’s Port Arthur campus. He’s now been with Bob Hope for two years.
Lewis has a keen eye for fashion and a mind for the business world. Some years ago he was co-owner of Oliver Maxwell’s, a shop on Lincoln Avenue in Groves. When that business was sold, he and his partners opened Sundara’s, a coffee shop down the road in Groves until that was sold to a different owner.
But even before that, he and his wife Lori started a wedding business.
Lewis is a certified bridal consultant and wedding and event planner. In fact, he has two weddings to work on this month, he said.
Bob Hope School recently welcomed former astronaut Jose M. Hernandez for the school’s Boots & BBQ: Celebrating National School Choice Week.
Hernandez told of his inspirational journey from migrant farmworker to astronaut — a story penned by Hernandez and made into a movie.
Lewis said local doctor and Thomas Jefferson High School valedictorian Dr. Thi Nguyen is a fan of Hernandez and was able to initiate a meeting of the men, thus giving Lewis a chance to meet Hernandez.
Hernandez and Nguyen have their own stories of inspiration, Lewis noted.
“It just goes to show you that everyone has a story to tell,” Lewis said. “Yes, we celebrate Black History Month in the month of February, but I believe I celebrate it every day, and it is truly a celebration.”
Lewis and wife Lori have been married 37 years and have a son, Quentyn, age 32.
“I believe that Black history is being made every day. But I believe that all people make history every day,” he said. “Be it a good history or a bad history, you’re making some type of history. As long as you leave a positive mark, you’re doing fine.”