The Herbert Lewis Family

The Herbert Lewis Family


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



The Herbert Lewis Family



Herbert Lewis and Frances Bryant

On the Occasion of Herbert’s 75th Birthday

9 August 2008

Fran ushers Herbert into his surprised birthday party

at Shoney’s in Emporia, Virginia, where family and friends have assembled to celebrate his 75th.


Fran greets Chapel Hill Baptist Church’s Reverend Bradley and his “first lady.” Herbert is one of Chapel Hill’s most respected deacons.

Son of Arthur Lewis and grandson of Daniel Robinson and Mary Lewis, Herbert Lewis (born 7 August 1933) is the father of three sons and two daughters: Caroline Lewis Coleman, Herbert Lewis, Jr. (wasn’t present; wife was ill; lives in Florida); Michael Lewis, Sharon Lewis; and Shawn Lewis.

 Uncle Arthur and His Lady Friend (unknown)

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Arthur Lewis (“Uncle Arthur”) had three children: Martha Lewis Teagle (5 February 1935; died 1 November 2002);  Mary (Foodie) Lewis Faison (born 5 January 1939); and Herbert Lewis (born 7 August 1933). I have known all three all of my life, though we have not been very close. I have always been very fond of Foodie, as a young woman she was fine, really pretty, and humorous. Martha and Mary spent most of their lives in Philadelphia, while Herbert remained in southern Virginia most of his life, except for that period in Philly from December 1951 to May 1963.

I was especially fond of Uncle Arthur’s children because it was their father who taught me my letters and numbers. When I was a little boy, he bought me a blackboard and chalk and taught me to focus. I remember my lessons taking place out in the front yard (1953). Because of him I was well prepared for the first grade and excelled all my classmates and skipped the third grade and graduated high school when I was sixteen.

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Chontel Coleman, son of Carolyn Lewis Coleman; Jennifer (Sparkle) and daughter Genesis


Jennifer (Sparkle); daughter Genesis, and her grandmother Carolyn Coleman


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 Herbert and his buddies: Peter Givens, in front of Herbert; Leslie Eldridge (friend & neighbor),  against the wall

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Leslie Atkins, Herbert’s stepson


Darlene Atkins (Fred’s wife) 

Carolyn sent an email informing me of Herbert’s surprise birthday party. I had not met any of the children of Martha, Mary, and Herbert, though Caroline and I have been emailing each other for sometime and she has been supporting the work of ChickenBones. I think she got to know me from the “family stories” I had published on the website. Calvin, Martha’s son, had also discovered the stories as well. On their paternal grandfather’s side of the family it was a blank, damn near. So they have been very pleased with the work I have done to keep our ancestors alive in such stories as Conjuring & Doctoring (which includes Uncle Arthur); Black Mama, White Son (tale told from the view of Mary Lewis, the Queen Mother of the Lewis Family), and then there is Father Son and Mary (which includes the man who raised me, William “Pompsie” Lewis, and his father George Graves).

Fran (Herbert’s lady), Mary (Herbert’s sister), Herbert; Calvin (Martha’s son), and his wife Wanda

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Left to right in photo: Calvin Lewis, Martha’s son;  Wanda Lewis (Calvin’s wife); Caroline Lewis Coleman (daughter),

Mary (Foodie) Faison  (sister); Herbert Lewis, Sr; Michael Lewis (son); Sharon Lewis (daughter); Shawn Lewis (son).

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Fran and Herbert


Alester Teagle (Martha’s daughter)

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Herbert’s 75th birthday was a joyous and simple occasion. He was in good form.  I got to meet and be with my folks. They were kind and received me as a celebrity. Calvin bought me dinner and we had a long talk and reviewed some of the stories he had read on ChickenBones. We also talked about the family cemetery in back of where Grandma Mary used to live, near the edge of the woods. Calvin has begun his own family project, working up a book that will include the family tree beyond what I have in my family stories.                               Herbert (left)  and Rudy (right)

Calvin wants to leave a tree behind for his children and his cousins. I encouraged him to check out the old family cemetery. All of Mary’s sons are not there, Daddy (William Lewis) is buried here at Jerusalem. Richard is buried in some cemetery in Baltimore. Percy became white and disappeared in the 50s. Edward and Irvin were buried on the Owens farm, where they all worked as semi-slaves. Their bones have been plowed under, probably, to enrich the earth on which they gave their lives.

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Lewis Cemetery

Below are those I know buried there. Some were buried in wooden boxes with their names on tin plates. Those graves are sunken and have not been well attended. Exactly where Mary is buried there I don’t recall. Mama when she was able built the graves back up and cleaned around them. It probably would be very nice if a stone or metal placard was set there with all their names inscribed. That would be a nice project for the young folk. It could be a sacred place for family to meet and refresh their ties with their ancestors.

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Mary Jones Lewis King, mother of William Lewis

Arthur Lewis, brother of William Lewis

Joe Roy Lewis, brother of William Lewis

John Willie Lewis, son of Edward Lewis (brother of William Lewis)

Ernest Myrick, “Blind Dick,” nephew of Mary Lewis

Theodore “Billy” Lewis, brother of William Lewis

Toy Lewis, wife of Billy


Ernest King, Sam Jackson’s stepson

Nathaniel King, husband of Mary Lewis

Edward King (“Ned,” son and grandson of Nathaniel King)

Mary Lewis had eight sons: Edward, Irvin, Joe, William, Richard, Arthur, Percy, Theodore.

 May her generations live forever.

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posted 21 August 2008




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