Reginald F. Lewis (1942 – 1993) is best known as the first African American ever to close an overseas billion dollar leveraged buyout deal with the purchase of global food company Beatrice International. Learn more about the business titan’s personal life and career milestones in this timeline.

A young Reginald F. Lewis at home in Baltimore, MD.

A young Reginald F. Lewis at home in Baltimore, MD. His first job was delivering newspapers while in school.

1942 – December 7
Reginald F. Lewis is born.

1951 – February
Lewis’ mother marries his stepfather.

Lewis attends Dunbar High School, where he plays football, basketball and baseball and is vice president of the student body his senior year.

Lewis attends Virginia State University. He is admitted on a football scholarship but stops playing due to an injury. He joins Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

1965 – Summer
Lewis attends a summer program at Harvard Law School and is subsequently admitted to Harvard Law School without formally applying.

Lewis attends and graduates from Harvard Law School.

1966 – Summer
Lewis travels in Europe.

1967 – Summer
Lewis works for the law firm Piper & Marbury in Baltimore.

Lewis accepts a job at the Wall Street law firm Paul, Weiss, Wharton, Rifkin & Garrison.

1968 – December
Lewis and Loida Nicholas meet on a blind date and become engaged in May 1969.

1969 – August 16
Lewis marries Loida Nicholas in her native country, The Philippines.

Lewis starts one of the first all-black law firms, Wallace, Murphy, Thorpe and Lewis, and focuses on corporate law.

Reginald F. Lewis at work in his law office

Reginald F. Lewis at work in his law office.

1972 – December
Lewis is counsel to the New York-based Commission for Racial Justice and works on the Wilmington Ten case, in which Civil Rights leader Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr. and nine others were wrongfully convicted of arson and conspiracy in 1971.

First child is born, daughter Leslie.

Lewis’ first attempt at a company acquisition (Parks Sausage).

ALMET is Lewis’ second attempt at a company acquisition.

Lewis and Charles Clarkson form their own law firm.

Lewis & Clarkson moves to 99 Wall Street.

Second child is born, daughter Christina.

1982 – July
Lewis purchases radio station WSTT in St. Thomas.

1983 – 1984
Lewis establishes the TLC Group, L.P. in 1983 and works on acquiring McCall Pattern Company. In February 1984 he assumes chairmanship of McCall Pattern Company.


Reginald F. Lewis and Rev. Jesse Jackson shake hands.

Reginald F. Lewis and Rev. Jesse Jackson shake hands. Lewis hosted fund-raiser for Democratic Presidential candidate Jesse Jackson.

Lewis holds fundraiser for Jesse Jackson’s presidential candidacy at Fraunces Tavern in New York City.

1986 – July
Lewis sells WSTT radio station.

1987 – June
Lewis sells McCall Pattern Company.

1987 – August 6
Lewis wins the right to buy Beatrice International Foods for just under $1 billion. It is the largest offshore leveraged buyout ever by an American company.

Reginald F. Lewis tours a factory owned by TLC Beatrice International

Reginald F. Lewis tours a factory owned by TLC Beatrice International.

New York City Mayor David Dinkins appoints Lewis to his Economic Advisory Council.


Lewis donates $3 million to Harvard Law School, the largest donation by an individual to the school at the time.

January 19, 1993
Lewis dies as a result of brain cancer.

Pioneers: Reginald F. Lewis and the Making of a Billion Dollar Empire premieres Friday, February 16 at 8pm on WLIW21; Sunday, February 18 at 7:30pm on THIRTEEN; and Saturday, February 24 at 7pm on NJTV. The 30-minute documentary will be available to stream nationwide following the broadcast. Learn more about the film.