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Alethia Lewis, Statesboro Icon Died Saturday – Public Viewing Friday

If you have lived in Statesboro for any time at all, it is difficult not to know Mrs. Alethia Lewis, her late husband Charlie or their children Le’Ontyne, Charlene, Reta Jo, Sharma and Charlie, Jr and their late daughter Wanda. Mrs. Lewis, Charlie and her family have been a major force in our community, state and nation for decades.

Mrs. Alethia M. Simmons Lewis died peacefully on Saturday, December 12, 2020, at her residence in Statesboro.  She was born on July 4, 1930 in Waynesville, Georgia to the late Rev. Vanderbilt Beecher, Sr. and Sarah Smith Simmons.

As entrepreneurs and community activist, the Lewis’s broke barriers and cleared hurdles, few even dared to breach.

I had the opportunity to get to know them early in my career. They were always supportive and engaged in my projects no matter if it was personal, professional or for the community.

Of course, I had no choice but to be supportive of them and their efforts. The word no, simply did not exist in Mrs. Lewis’s vocabulary, especially if she needed your support on an important community project.

Mrs. Lewis’s obituary, which we included below, chronicles her extraordinary life better than I could ever do.

Viewing is Open to Public, Funeral Service Limited

There will be a public viewing for Mrs. Alethia M. Lewis on Friday, December 18, 2020 from the hours of 12 noon until 8 p.m. at Hill’s Mortuary. The Lewis family will receive visitors from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Please be advised that all social distancing guidelines will be enforced.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, funeral service will be limited to immediate family and worship participants (ONLY). Grice Connect will live stream of the service at www.GriceConnect.com, GriceConnect Facebook page and on Hill’s Mortuary Facebook page.

Services commemorating the life of Mrs. Alethia M. Lewis will be held 12 Noon on Saturday, December 19, 2020 at the Brannen Chapel United Methodist Church with the Rev. Kenneth Griffin, pastor, presiding and the Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., eulogist.

Interment will follow at Bulloch Memorial Gardens.

Statesboro Mayor Orders Flags Flown at Half-Staff

Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar has ordered all flags in the city to be lowered to half-staff until her internment on Saturday.

“Our community has lost a giant in the passing of Mrs. Alethia Lewis,” said Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar. “Her tireless work in our community over the years has made Statesboro a better place for all of us that call it home. She will be very missed.”

Mrs. Alethia M. Simmons Lewis Obituary

Mrs. Alethia M. Simmons Lewis departed this life peacefully on Saturday, December 12, 2020, at her residence in Statesboro, Georgia.  She was born on July 4, 1930 in Waynesville, Georgia to the late Rev. Vanderbilt Beecher, Sr. and Sarah Smith Simmons.

Alethia graduated in 1948 from Beach High School in Savannah, Georgia.  She attended Savannah State College (University) but later graduated from the Madame Freeman School of Cosmetologyin Savannah, Georgia. 

Alethia was joined in holy matrimony on June 3, 1949 to the late Charlie Lewis, Sr.  They were married for 64 years.  In this union, eight children were born.  Their family resided in Chattanooga, Tennessee for two years and moved to Statesboro, Georgia.  They chose Brannen Chapel United Methodist Church as their place of worship and soon joined.

Alethia owned and operated Lewis Beauty Shop.  She was very active in many civic and political organizations as well as organizing the Statesboro Beauty League and serving as President. 

Alethia and her husband were prominent and industrious business owners.  In 1955, she and her husband established Lewis Van Lines, the first African American moving company in Statesboro.  In 1967, the Lewis Mart and Carousel Drive-In came into existence.  This led them to becoming proud owners of Lewis Auto Used Cars and Garage, Lewis Health Food Store, Lewis Public Self-Storage and Lewis Rental Apartments.  Their businesses served the community for 56 years while employing many young men and women encouraging them to complete their education and become successful entrepreneurs. 

1970 was a momentous era in her lifetime.  Alethia (along with Mrs. Ruth Payton Alexis and Mrs. Exlee Nunnally) led the effort of recruiting 32 black students to integrate all-white schools in Bulloch County after two federal integration court orders.  Three of her children were students who integrated the all-white schools. 

Alethia fought for Julia P. Bryant Elementary School to retain its historical name and continued her service in the education arena as a member of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) where she served as PTA Treasurer for Statesboro High and Marvin Pittman Laboratory Schools and PTA President at William James High School.  She also served on the Statesboro District Superintendent Board and was a substitute teacher for several years.  

Alethia was a Lifetime Member of the National Association for the Advancement of Color People (NAACP).  She is credited for reestablishing the local Bulloch County Branch where she served in various positions such as President for 12 years and six years as the Georgia State Treasurer.  Because of her outstanding leadership, two additional NAACP Chapters were established: the Bulloch County Youth Chapter and the Georgia Southern University Chapter.  As a visionary leader, she recognized the importance of introducing the local Bulloch County Branch to the Georgia State Level of the NAACP.  This led to hosting the NAACP State Conferences in 1972, 1973 and 1996 in Statesboro.

Alethia was influential in calling for equality in governmental representation through redistricting efforts related to the 1990 United States Census.  In addition, she was instrumental in campaigning for black city council members, school board members and county commissioners which all resulted in historic elections.  During her tenure as president of the NAACP, she was able to launch the City of Statesboro’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration and Parade.  Alethia also served as president of the American Legion Auxiliary Post 90 as well as the president and founder of the Tripolette Social Club. In recognition of her community service, she received the Deen Day Smith Service to Mankind Award in 2001 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.

Alethia was an active member of Brannen Chapel United Methodist Church, where she served as Lay Leader, Chairperson of the Administrative Board, Worship Coordinator, President of the Usher Board and United Methodist Women.  Honoring her 31 years of service, Brannen Chapel United Methodist Church declared December 8, 1996 as “Alethia M. Simmons Lewis Day.”  One of her favorite hobbies was hosting a weekly WWNS radio show.

She was preceded in death by her husband Charlie Lewis, Sr., her daughter, Wanda F. Hendrix and her siblings, Rev. Essie C. Simmons, Arlee (Albert Sr.) Morris, Vanderbilt (Mary) Simmons Jr., and Samuel Simmons.  A son-in-law, Horace W. Buggs, Jr. of District Heights, MD, preceded her in death.

She leaves to continue her legacy four daughters:  Le’Ontyne Buggs and Charlene Lewis, Clinton, MD, Reta Jo Lewis, Washington, D.C., and Sharma D. Lewis, Richmond, VA, one son, Charlie Lewis, Jr., New York, NY and one son-in-law,  Bernard Hendrix Jr., Statesboro, GA, four grandchildren:  Rudolph Daniels, Jr., Ellenwood, GA, Chatyne S. Hendrix, Statesboro, GA, Bernard (Amber)Hendrix, III, Atlanta, GA and Horace W. (Matia) Buggs III, Mitchellville, MD, five great grand-children:  Lauren Daniels, Waldorf, MD, Chatanesia L. Hendrix, Statesboro, GA, Delancey Daniels, Memphis, TN, Devin Parker, Humble, TX and Bernard Hendrix, IV, Atlanta, GA, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, relatives and friends.

There will be a public viewing for Mrs. Alethia M. Lewis on Friday, December 18, 2020 from the hours of 12 noon until 8 p.m. at Hill’s Mortuary. The Lewis family will receive visitors from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Please be advised that all social distancing guidelines will be enforced.

Services commemorating the life of Mrs. Alethia M. Lewis will be held 12 Noon on Saturday, December 19, 2020 at the Brannen Chapel United Methodist Church with the Rev. Kenneth Griffin, pastor, presiding and the Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., eulogist. Interment will follow at Bulloch Memorial Gardens.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, services will be limited to immediate family and worship participants (ONLY).

Services may be viewed via live stream at our Facebook page at Hill’s Mortuary, Inc.  

Floral tributes may be made through www.hillsmortuaryinc.com.

All other contributions may be made in honor of Mrs. Alethia M. Simmons Lewis to:

The Bulloch County Branch of the NAACP:  https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/BullochCountyNAACP or Bulloch County NAACP, P.O. Box 1323 Statesboro, GA 30459

Feed the Boro at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/FeedTheBoro

Final rites have been entrusted to Hill’s Mortuary, Inc.

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