Reginald F. Lewis was born December 7, 1942 in Baltimore. He had a distinguished academic record in high school and college. He worked to help pay for his education as a photographer’s assistant. He generated so much business that he was offered a partnership, but he wanted to become a lawyer, so he declined. He graduated on the Dean’s List at Virginia State University and went on to Harvard Law School. He was the only person in the 148-year history of the law school to be admitted without even applying. Two years after he graduated Harvard Law School, he helped establish Wall Street’s first African-American law firm.
He created the TLC group in 1983, purchased McCall Patterns for $22.5 million, streamlined operations and sold the company for $65 million. In December 1987 he completed the purchase of the International Division of Beatrice Foods for $985 million. It was the largest offshore leveraged buyout by an American company. By paying down the company’s debt and repositioning it, the company’s value was greatly increased and made Lewis the first African-American billionaire.
In January 1993 he died of brain cancer.