Delano Lewis
Official portrait, 2000
United States Ambassador to South Africa
In office
January 21, 2000 – June 22, 2001
Preceded byJames A. Joseph
Succeeded byCameron Hume
Personal details
Delano Eugene Lewis

(1938-11-12)November 12, 1938
Arkansas City, Kansas, U.S.
DiedAugust 2, 2023(2023-08-02) (aged 84)
Las Cruces, New Mexico, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Gayle Jones
(m. 1960)
Children4, including Phill
Alma mater

Delano Eugene Lewis (del-AY-noh;[1] November 12, 1938 – August 2, 2023) was an American attorney, businessman and diplomat. He was the United States ambassador to South Africa from 2000 to 2001, and previously held leadership roles at the Peace Corps and National Public Radio. He was the father of actor Phill Lewis.

Early life and education

Delano Eugene Lewis was born on November 12, 1938, in Arkansas City, Kansas, into a family of "ardent Democrats".[2][3][4] He was named for Franklin Delano Roosevelt (although his name is pronounced "Del-AYE-no", differently than Roosevelt).[1] He was the only child of Raymond Ernest Lewis, a porter for the Santa Fe Railroad, and Enna L. Lewis (née Wordlow), a homemaker.[2][5][6]

Lewis attended Sumner High School, in Kansas City, Kansas, from which he graduated in 1956.[7] He attended Boys State in his junior and senior years of high school.[7]

Lewis graduated from the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1960,[8] where he was a classmate of Wilt Chamberlain.[9] He earned a law degree from the Washburn University School of Law, in Topeka, Kansas, in 1963.[9] He worked full-time at the Menninger Clinic while attending law school.[10]


After graduation, Lewis went to work as an attorney in the U.S. Justice Department and later in the Office of Compliance in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.[11] He was an associate director and country director for the Peace Corps in Nigeria and Uganda from 1966 to 1969.[11]

Lewis was a legislative assistant to Senator Edward Brooke and Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy.[4] He led Marion Barry's mayoral transition team in 1978 and his re-election campaign's financial committee in 1982.[8]

Lewis joined The Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company in 1973 as a public affairs manager,[4][12] becoming its chief executive officer in 1990.[4] In 1988, Lewis served a one-year term as president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade,[13] and began a term as president of the newly formed City National Bank of Washington,[13] which eventually closed in 1993.

In 1993, Lewis became the president and chief executive officer of National Public Radio. During his tenure, he served for three years on the board of Apple Computer,[14] citing "pressing time demands"[15] as the reason for leaving in 1997. He resigned from NPR in 1998.[16]

Lewis was also a member of the board of directors of Black Entertainment Television,[17] and served on the boards of Colgate-Palmolive, Halliburton, and Eastman Kodak, as well.[9]

Lewis with former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela in 2000

President Bill Clinton named Lewis the U.S. ambassador to South Africa in 1999 and presented his credentials on January 21, 2000.[18] He was sworn in by federal judge John Edwards Conway, a law-school classmate.[9] Later, Lewis and his wife moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he started a consultancy, Lewis & Associates.[6] In 2006, he was named a senior fellow at New Mexico State University.[19] The following year, he was named founding director of New Mexico State University's International Relations Institute.[20]


Lewis was involved in the effort to establish home rule for Washington, D.C.; the District of Columbia Home Rule Act was adopted by the U.S. Congress in 1973.[21] He was a chair of the home rule committee for VOICE, the Voice of Informed Community Expression,[22] a group formed after the 1968 riots in Washington.[23]

Lewis later ran for a seat on the Council of the District of Columbia (Washington's city council), losing to Barry.[21] It was his only run for political office, although he was considered a leading candidate for Mayor of the District of Columbia for years, and was often described as a power broker in Washington, D.C., politics.[21] When he resigned from NPR, he declared that he would not be running for any public office.[24]

Personal life

Lewis was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and was elected president of it while at the University of Kansas.[5]

Among the many civic awards Lewis earned,[6] The Washingtonian named him a "Washingtonian of the Year" in 1978;[25] he was awarded Catholic University's President's Medal in 1978, as well.[6] In January 2009, he was celebrated as Kansan of the Year.[26]

Lewis and his wife, the former Gayle Carolyn Jones,[2] were married in 1960,[8] and they had four sons, including actor Phill Lewis.[8][21][27] A Baptist by birth and upbringing, Lewis converted to Catholicism when he married.[8] He died on August 2, 2023, under hospice care in Las Cruces, New Mexico, aged 84.[28][29]

See also


  1. ^ a b Molotsky, Irvin (August 21, 1993). "Public Radio's New Boss Puts First Things First". The New York Times. p. 45. Retrieved May 20, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Who's Who in America – 2007 (61 ed.). 2006.
  3. ^ "Delano E. Lewis Papers, 1960–1997". University of Kansas. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved May 20, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d Peabody, Alvin (May 14, 1997). "Delano E. Lewis: Seeking to Transform National Public Radio". The Washington Informer. Vol. 33, no. 32. p. 1.
  5. ^ a b Martin, Fred (June 1990). "The Man from C&P". Black Enterprise. p. 286.
  6. ^ a b c d Smith, Jessie Carney; Jackson, Millicent Lownes; Wynn, Linda T. (2006). Encyclopedia of African American Business. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 470–472. ISBN 978-0-313-33111-4.
  7. ^ a b "2005 Alumni Honor Roll". Archived from the original on June 13, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2009.
  8. ^ a b c d e Trescott, Jacqueline (January 6, 1988). "Delano Lewis, The Insider's Outsider – The C&P Vice President, Heading Up the Board of Trade & Playing Down Mayoral Talk". The Washington Post. p. C1.
  9. ^ a b c d Staff (July 2000). "Delano E. Lewis: America's New Ambassador to South Africa". Ebony. p. 116.
  10. ^ "Delano Lewis". Discover Your Talent Podcast. Retrieved August 3, 2023.
  11. ^ a b "Delano E. Lewis, Country Director for the Peace Corps in Nigeria and Uganda from 1966 to 1969 Discusses U.S.–South Africa Relations". Peace Corps. August 6, 1999. Retrieved May 13, 2009.
  12. ^ Peabody, Alvin (March 25, 1998). "Delano Lewis Calls For Revamping Of Political System: Still The Last Colony?". The Washington Informer. Vol. 34, no. 22. p. 1.
  13. ^ a b Pyatt, Rudolph A. Jr. (January 5, 1988). "Milestone at the Board of Trade". The Washington Post. p. C1. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012. Retrieved May 20, 2009.
  14. ^ "Board Member Quits Apple Post". MacWEEK. July 28, 1997. Retrieved May 13, 2009.
  15. ^ "NPR Head Resigns as Member of Board of Apple Computer". The Wall Street Journal. July 28, 1997. p. B7.
  16. ^ "NPR President and CEO Del Lewis Resigns His Future to Include Teaching, Lecturing and a Book". NPR. April 3, 1998. Retrieved May 15, 2009.
  17. ^ Beatty, Sally Goll (March 17, 1998). "BET Accepts Bid of $378 Million by Investor Group". The Wall Street Journal. p. 1.
  18. ^ "Delano Eugene Lewis Jr. (1938–)". Office of the Historian. Retrieved August 3, 2023.
  19. ^ Benanti, Mary A. (August 22, 2006). "Former U.S. Ambassador, Former NPR President Named Senior Fellow at NMSU". New Mexico State University. Archived from the original on May 10, 2007. Retrieved June 1, 2009.
  20. ^ Nosbisch, Bob (November 1, 2007). "Lewis and Lopez to Launch International Relations Institute". New Mexico State University. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved June 1, 2009.
  21. ^ a b c d Skrzycki, Cindy (October 25, 1993). "Answering a New Call – Del Lewis Leaves C&P after 20 Years for the Chance to 'Fly Free' at NPR". The Washington Post. p. F1.
  22. ^ United States Congress Senate Committee on the District of Columbia (1974). Advisory Neighborhood Councils: Hearing, Ninety-third Congress, Second session on H.R. 12109. US GPO.
  23. ^ Levy, Claudia (June 22, 1994). "D.C. Commissioner John Duncan Dies – Helped Move Blacks into Government". The Washington Post. p. B4.
  24. ^ Pressler, Margaret Webb (April 4, 1998). "NPR CHIEF ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  25. ^ "Past Washingtonians of the Year". January 29, 2008. Retrieved May 20, 2009.
  26. ^ Roy, Bill (January 31, 2009). "Madelyn and Stanley Dunham Passed Test". The Topeka Capital-Journal.
  27. ^ Hill, Michael E. (September 1, 1991). "Phill Lewis; D.C. Actor Has the Lead in CBS's 'Teech'". The Washington Post. p. Y07. Retrieved May 13, 2009.[permanent dead link]
  28. ^ "Las Cruces loses another icon: Former ambassador Delano Lewis has died". Las Cruces Bulletin. August 2, 2023. Retrieved August 3, 2023.
  29. ^ "Former NPR President and U.S. Ambassador Delano Lewis has died at 84". NPR. Retrieved August 3, 2023.
Business positions Preceded byDouglas J. Bennet President and Chief Executive Officer of National Public Radio 1993–1998 Succeeded byKevin Klose Political offices Preceded byJames A. Joseph United States Ambassador to South Africa 1999–2001 Succeeded byCameron Hume