Our community was saddened with the death of businessman, philanthropist and former mayor J. Curtis Lewis, who died over the weekend. Today, hundreds paid their final respects. It was standing room only, everyone with a kind memory and kind word to share about this amazing man.
Hundreds packed the First Baptist Church on Chippewa Square. Among his family and friends were local leaders and prominent businessmen.
Mayor Otis Johnson used to work for former Mayor Lewis. "In 1969, I came back from graduate school, the Model Cities program was here and Mr. Lewis had a lot to do with getting that program established," he said.
It was a program designed to put communities into action to make Savannah a better place, similar to what Mayor Johnson is working on today.
Mayor Johnson says Lewis was an inspiration. "Over the years, he has been so generous to the community and helped so many causes and was a tremendous role model for those blessed with wealth."
Others echoed that sentiment. "He's always been an inspiration to me," said auto dealer OC Welch. "A great man, proud to know him."
Welch has known Lewis as long as he can remember. "That's the first place I worked in the car business, and when I was coming up, I used to clean cars for his dealership," he recalled. "I knew a long time ago what a great man he was. I knew ever since I was a little boy what he meant to Savannah."
Lewis donated millions to build homeless shelters and a health clinic. He lent a small fortune to a new Savannah cancer research and treatment center. And the list goes on.
"For a community this size, there's no way anyone can replace Curtis Lewis," said Welch.
JC Lewis was buried at Bonaventure Cemetery. He is survived by his wife Nancy, six children and 11 grandchildren.