Claude Lewis, groundbreaking Philadelphia columnist, dies at 82

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     Claude Lewis was the first African-American columnist to work in Philadelphia. He helped found the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists along with the National Association of Black Journalists. (Credit: PABJ)

    Claude Lewis was the first African-American columnist to work in Philadelphia. He helped found the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists along with the National Association of Black Journalists. (Credit: PABJ)

    Philadelphia journalists are mourning the passing of Claude Lewis, a longtime Philadelphia columnist.

    Lewis, 82, died Thursday after a long battle with diabetes. He was the first African-American to write a column for a Philadelphia newspaper — the Bulletin — during the 1960s.

    “He was a pioneer,” said former colleague Sandra Long Weaver. “He was one of the early black journalists working for mainstream media. Coming into this business, you looked to Claude for guidance.”

    Born in New York, Lewis worked as an editor and reporter for several newspapers and magazines, including the Bulletin, Newsweek Magazine, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He later taught at Villanova University.

    “Claude was the epitome of professionalism,” Weaver said. “Claude was just the voice of calm. Very encouraging, and his door was always open.”

    In 1973, Lewis, along with late Philadelphia journalists Chuck Stone and Acel Moore, founded the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. Two years later, Lewis, along with Weaver and others contributed to the formation of the National Association of Black Journalists.

    “For many black journalists, he was a pillar of journalism, an icon and a mentor,” Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists President Melony Roy said Thursday night. “He made history as the first person of color to write a column for a daily newspaper in Philadelphia. PABJ will continue his legacy of diversifying newsrooms and calling for fair coverage of the African-American community.”

    Sandra Glover, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, added that Lewis “had a personal impact on the trajectory of many NABJ members.”

    Lewis is survived by his wife, Beverly; four children; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.  A memorial service is planned for a later date.

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