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‘Birmingham Legend’ Jesse J. Lewis Sr. receives Vulcan’s 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award

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Dr. Jesse J. Lewis Sr., Birmingham Times founder and pioneering businessman. (Barnett Wright, The Birmingham Times)

By Barnett Wright

The Birmingham Times

Dr. Jesse J. Lewis Sr., Birmingham Times founder and visionary entrepreneur, on Tuesday was awarded 2022 Lifetime Achievement from the Vulcan Park Foundation.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin presented the award to Lewis and said it was an honor to recognize “someone I’ve looked up to for quite some time, even prior to being mayor, the person I consider the Godfather of the City of Birmingham. Tonight, we celebrate a son of our city – a Birmingham legend and simply put, living, breathing Black history.”

Lewis was among the 2022 honorees for the annual The Vulcans Community Awards held at The Club in Homewood that honored seven citizens who exemplify civic pride, leadership and progress in four award categories: lifetime achievement, hero, game changer and servant leadership.

Lewis kept his remarks brief in both a video presentation on him as part of the program and after accepting his Vulcan.

In the video, he said simply, “I am Dr. Jesse Lewis and I love everybody.” At The Club, he told attendees, “I am so pleased to be in your presence…thank you so very much.”

Lewis, 97, who founded the Birmingham Times newspaper in 1963 and sold it in 2015, has owned or been part of at least 17 different businesses, including ventures in real estate, a recording studio, music publishing, a golf course, radio and television stations, grocery stores, and night clubs. In 1954, Lewis opened the country’s first Black-owned public relations and advertising agency. In 2019, he was inducted into the Birmingham Business Hall of Fame.

He currently oversees a real estate portfolio from his office at the Jesse J. Lewis Jr. Tech Center on the west side of Birmingham.

In his presentation, Woodfin said, “… The truth is sir, I wouldn’t be here without you. Dr. Lewis was a voice for those without a platform, a warrior for those without weapons, a leader in times when we needed him the most.”

The 2022 Honorees, chosen by an independent panel, were:

The Vulcans

Lifetime Achievement:  Lewis

Hero:  Bradley Johnson, The Bibb County Sheriff’s Department

Game Changer: Mark Wilson, M.D. Health Officer, Jefferson County Health Department

Servant Leadership: Lawrence Sheffield, Manufacture Good

The Spears

Heroes: Susan Montgomery Clark, The Megan Montgomery Domestic Violence Prevention Fund

Game Changers: Josephine Lowery, College Choice Foundation

Servant Leadership: Kelly Greene, Food For Our Journey

The 2022 Vulcans Community Awards are sponsored by, Medical Properties Trust and associate sponsor, Stone Building Company with additional support from Vulcan Park & Museum along with corporate partners, Birmingham Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Protective, Regions Bank and Vulcan Materials Company.

Updated at 7:37a.m. on 11/30/2022 to include the calendar year for the award.