On January 27, 1922, Steve Lorenzo Lewis was born to the late William L. Lewis, Sr. and Eliza King Lewis in Dade City, Florida. Shortly thereafter, his family continued their journey and arrived in Palmetto where they joined Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church. It was here that the Lewis family maintained their ardent commitment to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Steve was the first born to the King-Lewis union; preceding him in death are his siblings (from his father’s first marriage--William L. Lewis II, Ozella Lewis Russell, and Marie Lewis Hardy; from the King-Lewis union--Cenia Lewis Brown, Enoch Lewis, Maggie Lee Lewis Wilson and Louise Lewis Boyd). His surviving siblings are Elouise Lewis White and Rosa Lee Lewis Lawson. His devoted and loving wife of 53 years, Caldonia J. Middleton Lewis also preceded him in death. While growing up in Palmetto, Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church was and remained the center of family life. At the onset of Steve’s teenage years, this tenet became even more important after the death of his father. Steve became a surrogate father to his younger siblings. To help his mother provide for the family during the months when school was not in session, he worked as a day laborer in the produce fields of Manatee County--yet he never gave up on his goal of obtaining a college education.
He was a senior at the all-Black Memorial High School in Palmetto, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, drawing the United States into World War II. “The principal, W.J. Anderson, had the students gather around a radio to listen to President Roosevelt,” Lewis said in a 2014 Bradenton Herald interview, as he recalled the “Day of Infamy” speech, asking for a declaration of war on the Japanese empire. Lewis spent most of 1942 in college at Florida A&M, and in 1943 entered the Army….[He] was one of the last surviving members of the Buffalo Soldiers, an all-Black cavalry regiment. He served in the Ninth Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army in the early days of World War II. It was a unit that gained fame after the American Civil War patrolling the American frontier in the Old West. Native Americans called the cavalrymen “buffalo soldiers” historians believe, for their appearance and bravery. (Bradenton Herald, 12/30/21)
After WWII ended, Steve returned to Florida A&M where he pursued his dream of a career in veterinarian agriculture. His steadfastness helped him achieve other goals while in college; he became a Scroller, pledged Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and earned a degree in agriculture. Always focused on learning, Steve took summer classes at the University of Chicago. He earned a Master of Education from University of Northern Colorado. He taught school for more than 30 years in Palmetto. It was while teaching that he fell in love with Caldonia “Donie” Middleton, a fellow teacher, A.M.E. member, and family acquaintance. They married in June of 1958. Indeed, throughout Steve’s life, elements of love guided him. He loved Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church where he served as an usher, trustee, steward, and unofficial church historian. Many have listened as he recounted details of the church from 50, 60 or even 70 years in the past. His dedication to the church will be everlasting—a library room in the church is named in his honor. Steve Lewis has left a legacy of life to his daughter, Jennifer, two godsons (Brandon Carpenter and Aaron Randall II), a host of nieces and nephews, cousins, fraternity brothers, friends, and many successful former students. A public visitation will be held on Tuesday, January 4th from 11 AM to 1 PM at Turner Chapel AME Church 317 11th St. W., FL 34221. Graveside service will also be Tuesday January 4th, 2022 @1:30pm at Mansion Memorial Park in Ellenton, Florida.
Condolences may be given at www.westsidefh.com