Unsung Hero- Rufus A. Lewis

By Aja McCullough

Rufus Andrew Lewis was a Montgomery native, born November 30, 1906. He was the youngest of four children and was raised by Mr. & Mrs. Obe Thomas, who were farmers. He attended Alabama State Laboratory High School and Alabama State Teachers’ Junior College. Lewis graduated from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. There he earned an A. B. Degree in Business Administration in 1931.

After graduating from Fisk University, he became an athletic coach at Alabama State College (which is now Alabama State University) from the mid-1930s to 1941. He later taught night school for World War II veterans. Lewis was promoted to Head Coach for Football and Track in 1934, and was respectfully and affectionately called “Coach Lewis” for his outstanding winning records. While on the faculty, Lewis was a Charter-Member (1934) of the graduate chapter of Alpha Upsilon Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Lewis was always concerned about Black people having the right to vote. In 1952, Lewis conducted the Citizens Club, a social club that provided voter registration assistance. Lewis also traveled throughout the South training voter registration workers. In 1960, he co-founded the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC) and he was the first president of the Montgomery County Democratic Conference.

Lewis was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1976, and resigned from that position when U.S. President Jimmy Carter appointed him as U.S. Marshal, the first African American ever from the Middle District of Alabama to hold the position.

Rufus A. Lewis passed on August 19, 1999. He was 92 years old.

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