‘Doc’ Lewis broke barriers in adoptive state
Dr. Booker T. Lewis Jr. died on July 20, 2011 in Portland at the age of 88. Born on July 2, 1923 in Cleveland, Ohio to Booker T. Sr. and Alice E. Lewis, he spent his early years in Buffalo, N.Y. where he attended elementary and high school.
He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Fisk University and later earned his Doctor of Dentistry degree from the Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in 1948. In that same year, he married Emma L. Rucker and from this union three children were born. Emma passed away in 1972.
Affectionately known as Booker or ‘Doc’ to his many friends and family, he opened his first dental practice in Detroit, Mich., however, Uncle Sam had other plans and he was called into service with the United States Army. Dr. Lewis was the post dentist at Fort Carson in Colorado, where he reached the rank of Captain prior to being honorably discharged.
In 1955, Dr. Lewis moved to Portland and established a successful practice. Indeed, he became one of the pioneers of medicine and dentistry in his newly adopted state. As one of the first black dentists in Oregon, he served his community until his retirement in 2001.
In 1976, Dr. Lewis married Gladys Lewis and five stepchildren were added to the family unit. Gladys preceded him in death.
Dr. Lewis married Dorothy Spencer in 1984. The two of them enjoyed a lovely life together. During their 27 year union, they were devoted to each other at home, in the community, and through their love of the Lord. As lovely as Dorothy’s singing voice is for her church family, Dr. Lewis had been equally dedicated to his faith. As a member of St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Parish since 1955, he served as a member of the vestry, and was a senior warden, treasurer and loyal member of the church usher board.
Dr. Lewis was actively involved with numerous civic organizations, community initiatives and clubs. He was a true trailblazer. Just to mention a few of his accomplishments, he was the first black member of the Portland City Club, the first black judge for the Rose Festival Court, and the first black member of Portland’s University Club.
Dr. Lewis was also one of the founders and board members of Oregon’s first black bank, American State Bank (formerly Freedom Bank of Finance). Also, he was one of the founders of the Oregon chapter of Omega PSI PHI fraternity.
An avid golfer, Dr. Lewis won many golf tournaments across the country. He also was a member of the Leisure Hour Golf Club where he served as a mentor to encourage youth to enjoy the game he loved so much. In addition, Dr. Lewis was a member of the Oregon – Washington Football Club and was honored by the Portland Trail Blazers during Black History Month in 2006. He was, also, a member of Friends of Christians and Jews.
Among the wonderful attributes for which Dr. Lewis has been known throughout his lifetime are that he is well regarded as a man who was compassionate, good-natured and always a gentleman. Moreover, his kindness, great sense of humor, and marvelous dedication to justice toward everyone in his community and throughout the world will be fondly remembered.
Left to cherish his memory are his wife Dorothy S. Lewis, sister Helen Harris, daughters Rosalind Curry (Cicero) and Patricia A. Lewis, son Fredrick M. Lewis, five stepchildren, six grandchildren, three great grandchildren, a nephew—who is also a fellow dentist—Dr. Clyde Harris (Kim), and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and dear friends.
A funeral will be held at 10 a.m., Thursday, July 28, at St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church, 120 N.E. Knott St., with the interment to follow at Willamette National Cemetery. The viewing will be at Rose City Funeral Home on Wednesday, July 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.