[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 196 (Friday, December 1, 2017)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO
HONORING REGINALD F. LEWIS
HON. ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS
in the house of representatives
Friday, December 1, 2017
Mr. CUMMINGS. Mr. Speaker, deeply embedded in our character as
Americans is the vision that ours should be a nation that offers
opportunity to all of our people. Even as we continue to work toward
making this shared aspiration a reality, we must also recognize that
the pathways to a better life are far more difficult for far too many
of our citizens.
This is why I addressed my colleagues on December 1. I rose on the
floor of the House to celebrate a milestone in our nation's financial
I spoke of an event 30 years ago when Reginald Francis Lewis tore
down long-standing social and political stereotypes in our nation's
On November 30 and December 1 in 1987, Mr. Lewis negotiated the $985
million leveraged buyout of Beatrice International Foods--a transaction
that was heard in financial circles around the world.
At the time, this was the largest offshore transaction in the
country--a breakthrough moment orchestrated by a son of Baltimore, who
became the first African-American, billion-dollar business tycoon.
The 30th anniversary of this step toward realizing our dream of
universal economic opportunity deserves celebration both for all that
it accomplished and as a reminder of the challenges that we have yet to
Mr. Lewis' acquisition led to the founding of TLC Beatrice
International Holdings, Inc., the first African-American owned
enterprise to break through the billion-dollar mark when it grossed
$1.8 billion in sales during its first year.
That landmark, in turn, helped to change the landscape of American
business forever, paving the way for more Americans of Color to succeed
in the billion-dollar-business league.
This, however, is only the most apparent reason that I rose in the
House to celebrate that moment.
Equally important, I reminded my colleagues that Mr. Lewis'
character as a human being of African heritage is more representative
of our character and ambitions than the negative stereotypes that
continue to present barriers to success in our country.
Reginald Lewis was not an overnight success, as many of his peers
and family would point out.
Even as a young person growing up in Baltimore, Mr. Lewis developed
a strong work ethic and showed great ambition. His passion to succeed
carried him from Baltimore to Virginia State University and Harvard Law
School. Although he “mastered the art of the deal,” he did so with
integrity and tenacity.
This was the man I was fortunate to call my friend, and his untimely
death in 1993 left a void in our nation's financial industry that is
Because of his success in business, the doors to economic
opportunity have opened somewhat for other young Americans of color,
who now are inspired to dream as big as Reginald F. Lewis dreamed--and
to “keep on going, no matter what”--until they achieve their own
visions for themselves and their communities.
Today, Reginald's name will forever be remembered in our hometown of
Baltimore through the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African
American History and Culture, and highlights of his life are also
permanently displayed at the Smithsonian National African American
Museum of History and Culture.
Before Mr. Lewis died, he gave back to the institution that gave him
the tools he needed to change Wall Street: as a testament to his
generosity, The Reginald F. Lewis International Law Center stands at
Harvard Law School.
To carry on his spirit of philanthropy and his belief that a good
education is key to one's success, the Lewis family has continued to
“give back” to our society.
They created the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, and partnered with
others to create the Reginald F. Lewis High School of Business & Law in
Baltimore, the Reginald F. Lewis College of Business at Virginia State
University, and The Lewis College in Sorsogon City, Philippines, his
In loving memory of their father, his daughters continue to make
lasting contributions to American society.
For example, Leslie Lewis was recently recognized for her moving
one-woman show called “Miracle In Rwanda,” based on a true story of
surviving violence, overcoming odds and the power of forgiveness.
Christina Lewis-Halpern founded All Star Code, a not-for-profit
organization that seeks to equip young men of color with the tools they
need to become a new generation of entrepreneurs, who will create even
broader economic opportunity for us all.
By breaking a barrier in American business, Reginald Lewis also
affirmed our core values of diversity, equality, and the liberty to
pursue happiness--values that transcend color and race, nationality and
As Americans, we all have good reason to rejoice in the successes of
our sons and daughters. They will continue to perfect us as a nation
and celebrate us as a great people.