BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – James Lewis, publisher of The Birmingham Times and the son of the black newspaper’s founder, has died.
Mr. Lewis, who colleagues said was 67 or 68, died on Sunday following an illness.
Mr. Lewis was the eldest son of Jesse Lewis Sr., who founded the Times in 1964 to give the black community a greater voice during the civil rights struggle.
“If the Lord had to come down and make a child, he could not make one any better than James,” Jesse Lewis Sr. said in a prepared statement. “The Birmingham Times made progress under his administration and will continue to do so.”
Mr. Lewis, who had worked in community development for the city of Birmingham, took over as publisher of the Times from his father in 1998. In both roles, friends said, he was a forceful advocate for the black community and Birmingham as a whole.
“He was always passionate about the paper, just like his father,” said Roy Williams, director of marketing at Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic School. “It’s a great loss.”
Williams, a former Birmingham News reporter and a member of the Birmingham Association of Black Journalists, said Mr. Lewis’ influence reached beyond the limits of his newspaper.
“Our organization shares sorrow in the loss of Mr. Lewis,” Williams said.
Sherrel Stewart, a longtime Birmingham journalist and a founding member of the black journalists' association, said Mr. Lewis loved jazz, automobiles, seafood and the beach. He had a tremendous work ethic and believed that newspapers that focus on issues important to African American readers have a future despite the news industry’s troubles.
“He cared about Birmingham and the entire community, and he believed that communities are stronger because of the strong presence of the black press,” Stewart said.
Birmingham Times Editor Cheryl Eldridge will continue to handle day-to-day operations of the newspaper, Jesse Lewis Sr. said.
“Cheryl Eldridge, editor, has been the right-hand person of the Birmingham Times for 17 years and will continue to make the major decisions as it relates to the newspaper,” he said. “There is no reason that the Birmingham Times will skip a beat.”
Family Hour will be from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Davenport and Harris Funeral Home, 301 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, S.W., Birmingham.
Funeral services will be at noon Thursday at the First Congregational Church, Rev. Rodney Franklin, pastor, 1024 Center St., North, Birmingham.
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