Reginald Lewis, the chairman of TLC Beatrice International Holdings, Inc., the nation’s largest Black-owned business, dies of a cerebral hemorrhage in New York City.
1993 (Jan 19)
Reginald Lewis, the chairman of TLC Beatrice International Holdings, Inc., the nation's largest Black-owned business, died of a cerebral hemorrhage in New York City. The fifty-year-old executive had been diagnosed with brain cancer about two months earlier. Lewis's background in Baltimore, Maryland, was a modest one. He left there to earn a degree in economics from Virginia State University and a law degree from Harvard University in 1968. He then joined a New York City law firm and specialized in corporate and securities (stocks and bonds) law. In 1973, Lewis established his own law firm. Ten years later he set up an investment company, TLC Group L.P. Its first big deal was to buy the McCall Pattern Company producer of sewing patterns. In 1987, Lewis sought the multinational food distribution company Beatrice for $985 million. It was the largest deal of its kind in history. Despite his status as the country's most prominent Black businessman, Lewis always downplayed the importance of race in his career. He preferred to be judged by his performance, and he refused to consider race as a crutch or an obstacle. "It's understandable that [my race] is something people focus on," he once remarked. "But what I focus on and what others focus on are two different things. . . . I focus on doing a first-rate job on a consistent basis." Lewis' success eventually brought him a personal fortune of some $400 million. Although he carefully guarded his own and his family's privacy, he was well known for his generous donations to civic and charitable causes, including a $1 million gift to Howard University and a $3 million gift to Harvard Law School.