Abraham Lincoln Lewis

Abraham Lincoln Lewis

Madison, Madison County, Florida, USA
Death 10 Mar 1947 (aged 81)
Duval County, Florida, USA
Burial Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida, USA
Memorial ID 90415750 · View Source
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Human rights pioneer, entrepreneur, humanitarian and philanthropist. Son of a South Carolina blacksmith who had been a slave on one of the many plantations in Madison County, Florida. As slaves, his parents, Judy and Robert Lewis, could have belonged to any of a number of slave owning planters who had migrated to Madison County, Florida from South Carolina. In grateful tribute to the man who had just set them free, his parents named him Abraham Lincoln, a name he never used, instead choosing to be known as A. L. Lewis. Neither his parents nor older siblings could read or write, the result of a law which made it a crime to teach slaves to read. From this background came a giant of a man who spent his lifetime working to overcome and compensate for the segregationist inequities imposed on blacks. In 1901, he was one of the founders of Florida's first insurance company, the African American Industrial Benefit Association, subsequently renamed Afro-American Life Insurance Company. The company was founded to provide affordable life and burial insurance to the black community. Consistent with that objective, Lewis worked to ensure that the black population of Jacksonville had burial grounds available to them because they were precluded from buying lots in the white cemeteries. Deeds to cemetery lots in white cemeteries often included language precluding sale to Negroes. In 1909, Lewis served as Secretary and managed the Memorial Cemetery Association, which was located in the Afro-American Life Insurance building. Ownership of the 18.5 acres purchased for Memorial Cemetery was transferred in 1911 to the Memorial Cemetery Association, of which Lewis had become president. In 1913, the Association purchased the land for Sunset Cemetery, across the street from Memorial and platted Pinehurst Cemetery in 1928. Memorial and Sunset were considered "fashionable" burial grounds for blacks while Pinehurst was "ordinary." In 1919, Lewis became president of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company and under his leadership, the company spread throughout the south, first to Georgia when it acquired Chathorn Mutual Life and then as far as Texas. Lewis was a founder of the National Negro Insurance Association, established in 1921. In 1926, in the segregationist environment of that period, in addition to his work in providing cemeteries for blacks, Lewis founded the Lincoln Golf and County Club in Jacksonville, Florida so that blacks would have recreational outlets. In 1935, he bought oceanfront property on Amelia Island in Nassau County, Florida and established American Beach, which became a vacation mecca for blacks through the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s as it gave them access to a Florida beach. In addition to homes, American Beach included hotels, restaurants, and clubs such as the famous Evan's Rendevouz nightclub that hosted performances by Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Billie Daniels and other great black performers. In later years, American Beach, now a National Historic Landmark, became the subject of a documentary film, an American Beach. A. L. Lewis became Florida's first black millionaire and one of the wealthiest men in the south. He shared his wealth by providing substantial financial support to Historically Black Colleges across the south, such as Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M, and Edward Waters, and to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He died without even a glimpse of a time when blacks would be able to walk on any beach or into any hotel, club, or restaurant, or to be buried in any cemetery.(Bio: by Claudia L. Naugle)

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  • Created by: Thousandwinds
  • Added: 19 May 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 90415750
  • Thousandwinds
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Abraham Lincoln Lewis (29 Mar 1865–10 Mar 1947), Find A Grave Memorial no. 90415750, citing Memorial Cemetery, Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida, USA ; Maintained by Thousandwinds (contributor 47530874) .