For instance, Halpern says she was an outsider racially. Classmates at her private school were predominantly white, while she's of mixed racial parentage — African-American on her father's side and Filipino on her mother's. It was a combination that at least one schoolmate termed "a Fulatto."
Nor did it help that she was the daughter of a man who never appeared to struggle with self-doubt. From the time he was a child, Reginald Lewis seemed to possess both a crystal-clear mental picture of the man he would eventually become and the determination to overcome all obstacles in his path.
Reginald Lewis' aunt, Beverly Cooper, clearly recalls her then-9-year-old nephew telling a cabdriver that he was going to be a lawyer one day, while others remember the youth predicting that he would be a millionaire.
Lots of kids dream of future glory. But not all read the stock pages daily, as Reginald did while attending Dunbar High School in the 1950s. His preferred ride over the unpaved street in front of his East Baltimore home was a 9-year-old cream-colored English convertible that he bought with savings from a string of part-time jobs.
Halpern's memoir goes into some detail about how the young man finessed his way into Harvard Law School through a special summer program created in the summer of 1965 to introduce talented minority students to legal thinking.
It didn't matter that the program was for juniors, while Lewis was a senior; that his grades at Virginia State University were good but not exemplary; or that administrators explicitly stated that program participants weren't eligible for admission into Harvard Law.
Lewis drafted a plan and put it into action. He secured unusually heartfelt personal recommendations and delivered a standout performance in a mock trial. It was enough to persuade the law school admissions staff to waive its own rules — even before the fledgling lawyer had submitted his college transcripts or an application essay.
Halpern says she came to realize that self-confidence doesn't spring from external accomplishments. Instead, it arises from internal certainties.
"I think my father was born confident," Halpern says. "He had abilities, and he made the most of them. One of the things I've come to realize from writing the memoir is that someone doesn't become confident. They find their confidence."
Loida Lewis thinks her husband's formidable drive sprung from the rupture of his parents' marriage when he was 5 years old.
"When he was older, his aunt told him that he and his mother had left his father because he wasn't ambitious enough," Loida Lewis says. "Reginald was determined that would never happen to him."
In addition, Lewis' mother, Carolyn Fugett, made it clear to everyone — including her second husband and five other children — that Reginald came first in her life. She told her eldest son daily how extraordinary he was.
"My other children know that I love them dearly and would do anything for them," Fugett says.
"But they also know that Reggie has always been the centerpiece of my life, and he always will be. He was my firstborn, and I lost him prematurely.
"It gives me great joy to say 'hello' to Reggie every morning when I say my prayers, and 'good night' when I go to sleep."
Nor does Lewis remain a force only in his extended family. Nineteen years after his death, he continues to be revered in Baltimore's black community.
Earlier this week, Rosalyn Fugett Wiley was eating lunch in a local restaurant. When the waiter learned that his customer was Lewis' sister, he hurried over to introduce himself.
"He sat down and gave me my brother's life story," Wiley says. "I sat there in amazement. He almost knew more about Reginald than I know. It's astonishing how many lives he continues to touch."