4:41 AM / Thursday October 1, 2020

3 Mar 2013

Your Black History: Remembering Reginald F. Lewis, Black America’s first Wall Street baron

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
March 3, 2013 Category: Diaspora Posted by:

By Victor Trammell

black blue


Bob Johnson, former co-owner of BET is known as America’s first black billionaire. However, long before the infamous purchase of BET by Viacom, another black man was sitting atop his own billion-dollar business empire.


During the 1980s, the name Reginald F. Lewis (pictured) was synonymous with black wealth and financial power. Though he came from humble beginnings, Lewis rose to prominence as one of America’s most successful business leaders. His amazing life is chronicled in an official biography (which he co-wrote) titled, Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?: How Reginald Lewis Created a Billion-Dollar Business Empire.



Reginald F. Lewis was born on December 7, 1942 in a Baltimore, Maryland. He once described his neighborhood as “semi-tough.” He attended grades K-12 in the local public school system. After graduating high school, he entered Virginia State College on a football scholarship. Even though he eventually lost his scholarship due to injury, he graduated with honors from Virginia State College in 1965. He received his bachelor’s degree in economics.


For his graduate program, Lewis attended Harvard Law School. After taking a course on securities law, he decided where he wanted to take his career after graduation. He wrote his third year essay on corporate takeovers. Lewis eventually graduated from Harvard Law in 1968. After finishing law school, he went to work for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, a high-powered law firm in New York.


After spending just two years working for the prestigious law firm, he founded his own Wall Street law firm. While running his own firm, Lewis helped minority-owned businesses secure the necessary capital using Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Companies. A staunch desire to do his own investment deals inspired Lewis to start an investment firm in 1983 called the TLC Group L.P.


Lewis’ biggest financial achievement was the buyout of Beatrice Foods in 1987. Lewis purchased the company for $985 million. He also renamed the company TLC Beatrice International. Most of the company’s businesses were operated in Europe. As the new Chairman and CEO, Lewis moved swiftly toward paying down the company’s debt and increasing brand value. By 1992, the company was posting sales of over $1.6 billion annually.


Reginald F. Lewis died in January of 1993 at the age of 50. His multi-faceted and legendary career is indeed proof that white males are not the only race of men in America who know how to earn, cultivate, and preserve vast financial resources. In Lewis’ biography, he made a profound statement about doing business in Europe and American racism. It reads:


“In Europe, the major difference is there is less overt hostility that’s purely based on color. As you know, you can be insulted anywhere, but I’ve always been treated very well in Europe. Here in this country, there is a certain conspiratorial desire-regardless of what you do, how much you earn, you’re still black. And that’s meant to demean. But it only demeans you if you allow it to.”

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Leave a Comment

Recent News


Fall home decor trends: Comforting hues, flexible design

September 17, 2020

Tweet Share Pin Email By Kim Cook New York-based designer Glenn Gissler painted this New York loft...


Emmy winners highlight push for social justice

September 25, 2020

Tweet Share Pin Email By Beth harris ASSOCIATED PRESS  LOS ANGELES — Regina King and Uzo Aduba...


Trump’s tax revelation could tarnish image that fueled rise

September 28, 2020

Tweet Share Pin Email By JILL COLVIN WASHINGTON (AP) — The bombshell revelations that President Donald Trump...


Deion Sanders set to become Jackson State’s football coach

September 25, 2020

Tweet Share Pin Email ABOVE PHOTO: Deion Sanders  (Photo: DFree / Shutterstock) ASSOCIATED PRESS  JACKSON, Miss.— Hall...


Know the facts about pulmonary fibrosis

September 17, 2020

Tweet Share Pin Email BPT Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a progressive and debilitating disease that leads to...


SUNscopes for the week of September 27

September 25, 2020

Tweet Share Pin Email All Signs: It’s been tough with Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn at odds...

The Philadelphia Sunday Sun Staff