A Real-Life Black American Hero, Reginald F. Lewis, and the Filipina Who Loved Him

Loida Nicolas Lewis with a photo of her late husband, Reginald F. Lewis

For Loida Nicolas Lewis, love never ends. When asked why the Filipino American widow of Reginald F. Lewis enthusiastically shares her husband’s story and legacy 25 years after his death, she simply remarked, “Because I love him. Since the time I proposed to him while we were seated together in the subway: ‘Darling, do you want a big wedding or a small wedding?’ and he replied, ‘A small wedding.’ Suddenly, he realized what just happened. He put his hand on his forehead and said, ‘I have a headache.”‘

This elicited joyful laughter from the audience who gathered at the Harvard Club of New York City for the launching of PIONEERS: Reginald F. Lewis and the Making of a Billion Dollar Empire last February 15, 2018. The documentary, produced by PBS WNET, chronicles the life and legacy of business pioneer, philanthropist and titan Reginald F. Lewis, the first billion dollar dealmaker in America. A Harvard Law School graduate, Lewis rose to prominence as a lawyer, civil rights activist, financier, and leader of the global food company TLC Beatrice International.

The event was attended by top finance and business executives, ambassadors and dignitaries, entrepreneurs, and community leaders. In addition to the premiere screening of the documentary, a short forum on “How to Become the Next Reginald F. Lewis” took place, with Titan Panelist members such as Robert F. Smith, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners; Raymond J. McGuire, Global Head of Corporate and Investment Banking, Citigroup, Inc.; Dean C. Kehler, Trimaran Capital Partner (formerly Drexel Burnham Lambert); Cleveland A. Christophe, venture capitalist and former executive of the TLC Group; and Peter Offermann, former executive of Bankers Trust Company. The panel was moderated by award-winning Filipino American broadcast journalist Nina Pineda of Eyewitness News, WABC-TV. About 450 people, including RFL Scholars, RFL Ambassadors, and young entrepreneurs were in attendance.

In her speech, Loida Lewis thanked WNET President Neil Shapiro, and Executive Producer and Director Geraldine Moriba for featuring Mr. Lewis first in their new PIONEERS documentary series. Among others, she also thanked business tycoon Tarrus Richardson, who was inspired by Mr. Lewis’ story when he heard it at 14 years old, and gave the largest contribution to make the documentary possible.

The documentary aired last weekend on WLIW 21 and WNET 13, and will air this Sunday, February 24, 7:00pm on NJTV. Outside the US, it is now available for streaming online on www.thirteen.org/pioneers.

For more information, please visit www.ReginaldFLewis.com, or get updates from Facebook or Instagram via @RFLBillionDollarDeal.

QUICK FACTS About Reginald F. Lewis

  • 1969: Married Loida Nicolas Lewis, Filipino American immigration lawyer, civic leader and co-author of “How To Get a Green Card”, now on its 12th edition
  • Co-founded the first African American Law Firm on Wall Street
  • First person to be accepted at Harvard University Law School without applying
  • Among the first 5 male African Americans to have a museum named in their honor
  • 1987: Negotiated the first billion-dollar offshore leveraged buyout, the largest ever by an American company at that time, which acquired him 64 companies in 31 countries.

PIONEERS: Reginald F. Lewis and the Making of a Billion Dollar Empire will air on Saturday, February 24, 7:00pm on NJTV, and is NOW AVAILABLE for ONLINE STREAMING on www.THIRTEEN.org/pioneers.

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