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Dr. Jesse J. Lewis among 9 recognized as Black pioneers of public relations

Times Staff Report

Birmingham businessman and entrepreneur, Dr. Jesse J. Lewis Sr. has been named as one of nine black public relations pioneers honored by the Museum of Public Relations in New York.

Lewis, founder and publisher emeritus of The Birmingham Times, was recognized for his work in advertising, public relations and publishing, including the founding of Jesse. J. Lewis and Associates in 1954, one of the first African-American owned PR firms. It operates today as Agency54, with his great-granddaughter, Dorian Kendrick, leading day-to-day business as Vice President of Operations.

Lewis in 1975 became the first African-American to serve as a cabinet member in the state of Alabama, serving under Governor George Wallace. Lewis was also president of Lawson State Community College from 1978 to 1987.

“It is truly an honor to be included among the great communicators in black history,” said Lewis. “My hope is that my work might influence other young people to follow the same path in building relationships between organizations and the public.”

Others recognized include Patricia Tobin, Joseph Varney Baker, Maggie Lena Walker, Barbara Harris, Moss Hyles Kendrix (a one-time colleague of Lewis), Frederick Douglass, John H. Johnson and Bayard Rustin.

Agency54 is a full service strategic communications and public affairs firm composed of a diverse team of public relations, marketing and creative professionals. The firm has more than 60 years of experience working with a wide variety of companies and its motto is to break barriers through providing solutions.

The Museum of Public Relations is an educational institution chartered by the New York State Department of Education and is the only museum dedicated to the public relations profession. The organization preserves the history of the industry with hundreds of letters, photos, films, oral histories and other artifacts on display at the Baruch College, one of the campuses of the City University of New York (CUNY).