Lemuel "Arthur" Lewie Jr., a retired Carver Vocational-Technical High School science teacher who was a member of the World War II unit known as the Tuskegee Airmen, died of congestive heart failure April 14 at PowerBack Rehabilitation in Lutherville. The Windsor Mill resident was 99.
Mr. Lewie was the last Baltimore-area member of the Airmen, the first group of African American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. He was honored for his service on numerous occasions and most recently appeared at the city’s War Memorial on Veterans Day 2018.
“The unit, comprising the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the Army Air Forces, became legendary both for their elite skills and for the fact that they carried out their missions at a time when much of the nation — including the federal government and the military — was still largely segregated by race,” said a 2018 article in The Sun published at the time of Mr. Lewie’s 70th wedding anniversary.
Born in Columbia, S.C., he was the son of Dr. Lemuel A. Lewie Sr., a dentist who was a Howard University graduate, and his wife, Ophelia McDaniel Lewie. He lived the Waverly section of Columbia.
He was a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Allen University. He later received a master’s degree in biology from Atlanta University and also studied at the University of Maryland.
Mr. Lewie was trained in rural Tuskegee, Ala., and became part of the Airmen, known as the "Red Tails" for the pattern painted on their planes. He and other black flyers and their staff were subjected to discrimination inside and outside the military even as they went about achieving legendary status, The Sun’s 2018 article said.
Mr. Lewie trained at Atlanta University in the Adjutant General’s Administrative School. He also studied at Spelman University, Morehouse College, and Clark-Atlanta University.
In 1944, as a lieutenant, he was assigned to the Tuskegee Army Air Force Base and took pilot training with Piper Cubs. The next year he served at Midland Army Air Field in Texas.
In a memoir, he said his most memorable experiences included being the first student officer in his class to fly solo, his spectacular night flying and his excellent flight training. He also recalled being the paymaster for an Army Corps of Engineers unit with a biweekly payroll of $25,000.
He met his future wife, Reva Goodwin, who was then an 17-year-old Baltimore high school senior who was visiting relatives in Columbia. They married in 1948.
After they moved to Baltimore, he joined the Baltimore City Department of Education and initially taught other returning veterans at a trade school. He then became a science, mathematics and textile design teacher at Carver Vocational Technical High School, where he worked for 28 years. He retired in 1977.
He organized a student greenhouse club and moderated a camera club at Carver. He was also an adviser to graduating students.
Mr. Lewie gave talks to schools and other groups about his World War II experience as an African American.
"Most people are not aware any longer of what we did, " Mr. Lewie said in a 2012 Sun article. "Only recently have they become interested again in how we fought an enemy overseas and waged war on racial segregation in America. It was tough but finally I made it. I came home as a Tuskegee Airman."
Last year Mr. Lewie and his wife celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary at Martin’s West.
“They grew ever closer as they attended demonstrations together during the early civil rights movement, shared interests in music and world travel, and attended church,” said The Sun’s 2018 article.
“I'd do it all over again," Mr. Lewie said of his life experiences.
Mr. Lewie served on the board of Beautiful Baltimore. He was a 32nd Degree Mason and member of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge. He was a member of the For-Win-Ash Garden Club, Ripple Wood Community Association and the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland. He enjoyed travel, hunting, fishing and gardening.
Attired in his red Tuskegee Airmen's jacket, he appeared at the War Memorial on Nov. 11 for Veterans Day ceremonies. Former state Del. Clarence "Tiger" Davis described Mr. Lewie as a "living example of African American valor."
“He did it all and he went out in a blaze,” said his daughter, Dr. Marcia Thompson of Hilton Head Island, S.C.
A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. April 26 at Epworth United Methodist Church, 3317 Saint Lukes Lane. Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery.
In addition to his wife, a retired Baltimore city schools art teacher, and his daughter, survivors include a sister, Dr. Marguerite Lewie of Los Angeles; three grandchildren; and a great grandson.