Los Angeles native Arthur Lewis was a successful businessman and great family man who witnessed this city’s many changes.
By Jason Lewis
My father recently passed away. After reflecting on his life for the last several days, I gotta say that he lived a very long and very amazing life.
A few months ago I stopped by his house and I was wearing a “Black Los Angeles” t-shirt. He looked at the shirt and said, “I am Black Los Angeles.” And he was totally right. He was born here in Los Angeles in 1925. He was able to witness this city grow and the racial changes that it’s made. He grew up on the Eastside in the Central Avenue area and rode the Red Cars as a child. He saw Jackie Robinson play in-person before Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. He was around when Los Angeles County had several sundown towns where Black people were not welcome. And he was a part of the fight against the city’s racial housing covenants that prevented Black people from moving west of the Central Avenue area.
Arthur was a proud alum of Jefferson High School and UCLA. He joined Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated in 1946 while in college and he was active with the fraternity his entire life. He was a member of Lincoln Memorial Congregation Church for several decades.
Arthur was a business major at UCLA, and he worked for Golden State Mutual Life Insurance until he was drafted into the Army in 1952. He then worked as an auditor for the Department of Defense Contract Audit Agency at JPL/Cal Tech in Pasadena.
As a businessman, before going to the military he was the first Black person to own an Orange Julius stand, which was on the corner of Central Avenue and Vernon Avenue. He owned Lewis Tax Service in Leimert Park, and he owned Lewis Vending Company where he had jukeboxes in local Golden Birds, Fatburgers, and other local restaurants. He also did extremely well in the stock market and in real estate. He encouraged me to go into business for myself by starting my own newspaper while I was working for other local Black newspapers.
As a family man, he was an amazing husband to his wife Elizabeth for 53 years. He was an amazing father to Ivy, Derek, Cornell, Arthur III, Jeff, and myself. And he was well loved by his five daughters in-laws, eleven grandchildren, eleven great-grandchildren, and close family members and friends.
Arthur loved attending local sporting events and watching sports on TV. He attended many Rose Bowl games dating back to the 1940s, and he witnessed the Dodgers and Lakers move to Los Angeles.
Arthur was a boogie woogie piano player, he loved jazz, the blues, and choral music, and he was an avid poker player who often took trips to Las Vegas.
Arthur lived a long and outstanding life, and he will be greatly missed.