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Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis

Colonel and federal government appointee Roosevelt Joseph Lewis, Jr. was born on August 25, 1943, in Greenville, Alabama to Clara Nell Mitchell Lewis and Roosevelt Joseph Lewis, Sr. Lewis and his family moved to Toulminville, Alabama when he was four years old; and he graduated as valedictorian from Heart of Mary High School in 1960. In 1964, Lewis received his B.S. degree in chemistry from Tuskegee University (formerly the Tuskegee Institute) in Tuskegee, Alabama. He earned his M.A. degree in transportation and business management from the University of Alabama in Tuscalossa, Alabama.

While attending Tuskegee University, Lewis enrolled in the United States Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps and met aviation pioneer Alfred “Chief” Anderson, who was the chief flight instructor and mentor to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. By 1968, Lewis gained recognition for his superior performance in the ROTC and was elected "Best Major in Command" by his unit in 1968, 1969, 1982 and 1988.

Lewis served the United States government's Department of Defense in five Pentagon positions, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense. As the chief of Vehicle Programs, he purchased the $3.4 billion vehicle fleet for the U.S. Air Force and managed a $34.8 billion budget as Executive Officer of the Logistics Engineering branch, Headquarters U.S. Air Force.

Lewis was a presidential scholar at the University of Alabama and served as a congressional intern with the Public Works & Transportation Committee for the U.S. House of Representatives. Lewis has also taught transportation courses for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of Maryland. In addition, he was previously former secretary of the Alabama Aeronautics Commission.

Since his retirement in 1991, Lewis has focused his efforts on aviation training for new pilots and has guided over 300 of them in obtaining their licenses. Lewis also serves as chairman and CEO of Air Tuskegee Ltd. and Global One Jets. He also owns historic Moton Field, where most of the Tuskegee Airmen, including his mentor, “Chief” Anderson, learned how to fly.
Roosevelt Joseph Lewis Jr., was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 6, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.246

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/6/2007

Last Name

Lewis

Schools

Heart of Mary High School

Toulminville Elementary School

St. James Major Catholic School

Tuskegee University

University of Alabama

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Roosevelt

Birth City, State, Country

Greenville

HM ID

LEW11

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches

Favorite Quote

There Are These Three: Faith, Hope And Love, And The Greatest Of These Is Love.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Alabama

Birth Date

8/25/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Coden

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Blue Bell Ice Cream

Short Description

Colonel and federal government appointee Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis (1943 - ) served the United States in five Pentagon positions, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He is chairman and CEO of Air Tuskegee Ltd. and Global One Jets. He is also the owner of Moton Field, where most of the Tuskegee Airmen were trained as pilots.

Employment

United States Air Force

Tuskegee University

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his maternal family history, pt.1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his maternal family history, pt.2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his great-grandmother Lula Lewis

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his two maternal grandfathers

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis shares memories of his maternal grandparents and annual family reunions in Greenville, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis recalls her mother's generosity in his childhood neighborhood in Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his mother's childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his maternal ancestry

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his father's childhood in Greenville, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his father, Roosevelt Lewis, Sr., pt.1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his father, Roosevelt Lewis, Sr., pt.2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his father's career at the International Paper Company

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his father's death and his respect for his parents

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his father's training as a medic in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes how his paternal great-grandmother, Lula Lewis, lost her land

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis recalls his experience of growing up on a farm

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about how his parents met and their courtship

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his parents' move to Mobile, Alabama where his father worked at the International Paper Company

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his family's move back to Mobile, Alabama after his father returned from military service

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his siblings, pt.1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his siblings, pt.2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his family's first home in Toulminville, at that time a suburb of Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis remembers watching his neighbor, Hank Aaron, play broom ball

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood neighborhood in Toulminville, a suburb of Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his childhood experience of segregation in Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes the stores and schools in Toulminville, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis remembers learning to play tennis

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his elementary school years at Toulminville Elementary School, originally a Rosenwald one-room schoolhouse

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his father's work and education

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his family's conversion to Catholicism and his Catholic schooling

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his experience at Heart of Mary High School in Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis recalls winning scholarships that enabled him to go to college

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis remembers a tragic fire in his childhood home

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes the aftermath of a tragic fire in his childhood home

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his first days at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his first flight with C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his experience at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his early years in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis remembers being attacked by the Ku Klux Klan in Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes another incident with the Ku Klux Klan, and why he did not participate in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis remembers getting shot at while working for TISEP, The Tuskegee Institute Summer Education Program

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about why he chose a behind-the-scenes role during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about being stationed at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his decision to go to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his wife and his daughter

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson, who introduced him to many Tuskegee Airmen

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his involvement with the East Coast Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. while interning in the U.S. House of Representatives

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about the influence of the Tuskegee Airmen on him and his "P's of Success"

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about the importance of the Tuskegee Airmen's story and his role in telling it

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his early career and his two-year tour at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina while working for the Pentagon

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about working at the Pentagon and his time with the U.S. Air Force in the Philippines

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis recalls his promotion to the rank of colonel

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes how the Tuskegee Airmen influenced him in his U.S. Air Force career

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his responsibilities in the Philippines as a U.S. Air Force Colonel, and in Operation Earnest Will

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his decision to return to Tuskegee University to save Moton Field and to teach air science

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his aviation students at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his goals at Tuskegee University and the establishment of the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about the importance of a flight training program at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis recalls outstanding students that he has trained

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis reflects upon the influence of his parents and C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson on his life

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis shares his advice for youth

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$8

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis describes his first flight with C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson
Col. Roosevelt J. Lewis talks about his responsibilities in the Philippines as a U.S. Air Force Colonel, and in Operation Earnest Will
Transcript
So you're on the field [Moton Field, Tuskegee, Alabama] and you see Chief Anderson?$$Yes, C. Alfred Anderson, "Chief" Anderson to those who were in the Tuskegee Aviation experiment, America's first black military pilots got their first seventy hours of flight training at Moton Field, a field owned by Tuskegee Institute [now Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama]. This man had just landed in his airplane and totally ignored the three young men who had shown up, and he gassed the airplane up and we were standing there and we got closer and closer and closer and finally we're standing next to the airplane and we're looking never saying anything, but just looking. Chief Anderson turned around says, "Hi, I'm Chief Anderson," put his hand out, said "Would you like to go for a flight?" The other two guys just kinda almost fell down getting back out of the way, Chief nudged my elbow, helped me in the left seat, told me to put the seat belt on, put your heels on the floor, toes on the rudder pedals, left hand on the wheel, right hand on throttle, crank the airplane up, when he got in the other side and off I went in this airplane all over the place, it was like an anaconda snake or something but Chief Anderson was an individual who was just an absolutely incredible instructor. I know now as a pilot that he put his shoes on the outside of the rudder pedals and I could only do so much with the airplane, but he would have you think that you were actually flying the airplane and more and more he would turn over the airplane to you as you gain hand and eye coordination and skills and what have you, but I went for this first magical flight for thirty, forty minutes over Tuskegee, came back in and landed and it had truly broadened my horizons. I was truly struck by the fact that I no longer saw Tuskegee as this big place that I had to walk from one end down here all the way up to the Tompkins Hall and over to the Chapel and what have you. I found out that Tuskegee was a finite place, I saw the borders. I asked questions, I was totally fascinated with the idea of flying an airplane. He taught me how to turn the airplane, how to make the airplane climb gradually, how to make the airplane descend gradually, how to maneuver the airplane and told me about controls and speeds and what have you. You can only get so much in a short period, but in that flight I think the realization came over me that "I think I can do this," then "I know I can do this," and then "I have to do this," so from that point on flying became an absolute integral part of who I was.$So is that what happened with your next position?$$Yes, in the Pacific, I was sent out there--twofold reasons. Number one, I had all of this Pentagon experience; they needed a senior colonel on the ground in the Philippines to make sure that the [Corazon] Aquino Government was supported. I worked with the Embassy; they knew I knew logistics so the Pentagon needed somebody there very quickly to fix things in case that is what was needed. My "day-time job," not working with the Embassy, my day-time job was overseeing the DOD [Department of Defense] Air Lift Operation and the mobility program in the Pacific [theater]. So for half the world I was responsible for mobility, and I had the Eighth Mobile Aerial Port Squadron there and the 74th Strategic Airlift Squadron there, so I was a group commander, and I had all of the detachments out there in the Pacific responsible for air lift operations. I kept fresh fruits and vegetable parts all of that in front of the [U.S.] Navy task forces, I fed the [U.S.] Army any air lift things they needed to come in, the Navy, the [U.S.] Marines--I air lifted them for mobility, all of those kinds of things. And also in the Pacific, Operation Earnest Will, a one-baker-one [ph.] presidential directive, the first one I saw in my entire career, but I was responsible directly to the Pentagon for getting to Diego Garcia [Air Force Base] and running this operation. I don't know if you remember this but there was the mining of the Persian Gulf by Khomeyni in Iran. This was an international incident, the world was on pins and needles because nobody knew what anybody else was gonna do. Khomeini mined the Persian Gulf; the oil tankers could not come through there. President [Ronald] Reagan said, "this will not stand." President Reagan wanted France to let us have overflight rights. They wouldn't let us do it, so we had to airlift minesweeping helicopters that dragged boards we call them, in the water to get rid of the mines. We had to airlift them three quarters of the way around the world from the States, East Coast all the way around the world on a C-5, multiple C-5s we did that. I received them, they came through in the (unclear) received them, was there, we got the job done, but most of the world doesn't know that President Reagan had five cocked B-52s orbiting over the area during that operation, but the USS Guadalcanal, a carrier, a small carrier was on the way to the Persian Gulf, turned around and came back. This was supposed to be super-secret, nobody knew anything. And on CNN, right after I pulled the helicopters off of the C-5s and the Navy guys got the, got them airworthy and they flew them and put them on the Guadalcanal, it was on CNN that the USS Guadalcanal has just come into the lagoon at, oh my--Diego Garcia, so I was involved in this absolutely incredible thing, it worked out thank goodness, but I came back from the Philippines to a job after a bit of an epiphany.