Law in Contemporary Society

Reginald Lewis' Effect on My Life and Career

-- By PierceHeard - 15 Apr 2024


Reginald F. Lewis was a revolutionary. He was the first African American to build a billion dollar fortune by brokering a leveraged buyout of Beatrice Foods, and he paved a path for many more behind him. "There is no doubt that Reginald Lewis’ success paved the way for me, and many others, and I think that really is the test in demonstration of real leadership." (Pioneers: Reginald F. Lewis and the Making of a Billion Dollar Empire). Witnessing the heights Lewis was able to reach inspired me to bet on myself and take risks to secure financial freedom for my family, while leaving a legacy that makes the path easier for the generations that follow me. Although the journey to economic equality amongst racial groups is incomplete, Lewis' legacy certainly pushed the status quo in the right direction, and the impact of his contribution is still felt 31 years after his death.

African American Success Before Reginald Lewis

Before Reginald Lewis, Black people in America often saw two paths to modern day wealth; they could either be an athlete, or an entertainer. Of course, there were African Americans who were beginning to enter banking, law, and even medicine; but none had reached the same level as Lewis. These Black pioneers should not be brushed off; they made a huge contribution to society and had a lasting positive impact on the Black community. But the extreme success that Richard Lewis achieved gained national attention. "Reginald Lewis’s business accomplishments transformed him into something of a celebrity. He was besieged with offers to appear at various functions and with requests to do media interviews... Among these were '60 Minutes,' '20-20,' 'The Charlie Rose Show,' and the 'Oprah Winfrey Show.'" (Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun?, by Reginald F. Lewis and Blair S. Walker, page 267). This national status provided the youth with a role model. He showed them that they can create wealth for themselves and their families while making a meaningful change in corporate America.

Reginald Lewis' Success

Reginald Lewis was a hard worker his whole life. In fact, his hard work and dedication led him down a path to gain admission to one of the top law schools in the world without even applying! From law school, he entered private practice with one of the largest law firms on Wall Street. However, after only two years with the firm, Lewis hung his own shingle and opened the first Black owned law firm on Wall Street in a partnership with his fellow friends and former classmates. He practiced for 15 years at this firm before taking his next leap of faith. After acquiring years of business acumen, he decided to leave the law and create his own private equity firm. In four short years after taking the risk to start his own shop, he acquired a business valued at $985 million. This propelled Lewis to become one of the most dominant people in America's financial capital. With his newfound wealth and power, he realized he was in a position where he could make a meaningful impact on the world. He established a foundation in his name that within four years donated roughly $10 million to a variety of educational, civil rights, medical, and artistic institutions. Amongst this newfound success and wealth, Reginald Lewis always sought to stay grounded and treat others well. The former Mayor of New York City, David Dinkins, said “Reginald Lewis accomplished more in half a century than most of us could ever deem imaginable. And his brilliant career was matched always by a warm and generous heart.” (Reginald Lewis Bio)

Reginald Lewis' Effect On Me

Learning of the heights Lewis was able to reach changed my entire perception of what a fulfilling life and career could look like for me. Seeing a Black man rise to the upper echelons of society ignited a fire within me. After learning from Lewis' path, I now know that I want to be my own boss someday, and I feel confident that I can be a success on my own. I see now that I can aim for much higher than working in a job that does not satisfy me; I can devote my career to something that will actually lead to meaningful change while giving me a sense of fulfillment in my work. Additionally, while I strive for material wealth for my family and myself, it is important that I always treat others with kindness and warmth.

My Path Forward

I see my career looking very similar to Lewis'. I hope to start off in law and perhaps pivot to a business role and start my own company. I want to pursue matters that interest me and work on issues that keep me engaged and constantly learning. Through these ventures I hope to be able to donate money to organizations that benefit society and leave an impact that inspires the youth to chase their dreams and become the business leaders of tomorrow. Without having a role model such as Reginald Lewis, I likely would not have the confidence to pursue business ownership due to the racial and socio-economic barriers that are in place in today's society. Lewis showed me that through education, hard work, and perseverance I can break these barriers and achieve my goals.


In conclusion, Reginald Lewis showed me that I can be whoever I want to be in this world. He passed the torch to the next generation of Black America and taught us to become our own bosses, and the next titans of industry. Simultaneously, he showed us that when we reach these mountaintops, to ensure that we leave a meaningful impact for those that are next to come. Reginald Lewis demonstrates the importance of having role models that represent you; by achieving success in America and breaking racial barriers, Lewis showed me that I can achieve anything I put my mind to.

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r7 - 20 May 2024 - 16:34:57 - PierceHeard
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