Class of 1958
Inducted 1998 Inaugural Group
A distinguished editor and commentator, first for The Philadelphia Bulletin and later for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Claude Lewis is a groundbreaking African-American journalist whose love affair with writing blossomed as an English major at the College.
Lewis was born in the Bronx on Dec. 14, 1934. He began his professional career at Newsweek in 1952, first as an editorial assistant, later as a reporter and an assistant sports editor. During his years at the magazine, he covered a broad swath of subjects in addition to sports, including science, music, education and national affairs. In 1964, Lewis moved to The New York Herald Tribune, where he won national recognition for his role in a series called “New York City in Crisis,” later published as a book.
In 1965, Lewis briefly left print journalism for television, joining NBC as a reporter in Philadelphia. Among his scoops as a TV correspondent was an exclusive interview with the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. With NBC, and later with Westinghouse Broadcasting, he wrote specials and produced documentaries. One of them led to the establishment of Philadelphia’s first suicide control center. His series on drug addiction was instrumental in legalizing methadone treatment in Pennsylvania.
Lewis returned to print media in 1967, joining The Bulletin. He was a columnist and associate editor for 15 years. In 1982, The Bulletin folded, and five months later, Lewis became the founding editor and publisher of The National Leader, the country’s first national black newspaper. In 1984, Lewis became a columnist at The Inquirer and was also appointed to the editorial board. He retired in 1997, but continued to write a column for The Inquirer.
Lewis is the author of “Adam Clayton Powell,” a 1963 biography; “Cassius Clay: A No-Holds-Barred Biography of Boxing’s Most Controversial Champion” (1965); and “Benjamin Banneker: The Man Who Saved Washington” (1970), the story of a man whose father was a slave, but who taught himself to become a scientist and a surveyor who in 1791 became part of a group that surveyed the borders of the original District of Columbia, then the federal capital district of the U.S.
Lewis has also served as a Pulitzer Prize juror, was a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists and has taught at several universities, including Villanova.