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Charlotte Lewis

Born on 10-10-1902. She was born in Americus, GA.
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Charlotte Lewis was born the middle of eleven children in Americus, Georgia, on October 10, 1902. She celebrated her 102nd birthday in October 2004. She has been an active member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church for 86 years and a proud member of the Republican Party for 85 years. Ms. Lewis and her family moved to Buffalo in 1918 when she was 16 years old. She can recall living at 27 William Street, during a time when William Street ended at Michigan Avenue and off Michigan was a short street called Vine Alley. Ms. Lewis and her family later moved to Hamlin Parkway (Street unless you mean Humboldt Parkway) where she lived for 37 years. She hails from a large family (3 boys and 8 girls) and makes it very clear that although she attended private school her parents were not wealthy. Her father and mother worked two-three jobs so they would be able to afford to provide their children with an education. After moving to Buffalo, New York Ms. Lewis attended Hutchinson Central Technical High School (Hutch-Tech) for a short(er) period of time.

Growing up, Ms. Lewis states, "There were only two Black churches in Buffalo. One was Bethel AME and the other was the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church." She taught Sunday school at Bethel AME and worked in the kitchen as part of the Hospitality Ministry. Ms. Lewis recalls how her mother took her by the arm, once she turned 18 years old, and escorted her to their polling place on the corners of Cedar and Swan Streets to register to vote. Both of Ms. Lewis' parents were Republican and as she was growing up, her mother often discussed with her the importance of the vote. Her mother would also tell her that, "being a Republican offers more privilege and the Republicans are more willing to share their dollars, while the Democrats have a history of keeping money for themselves. Ms. Lewis also shared that she does not always vote the party-line but votes for whom she feels is the best candidate.

Charlotte Lewis became involved with the Metropolitan Republican Women's Club (MRWC) through her friendship with the late Elizabeth Draper. Mrs. Draper founded and organized the MRWC in 1945. She states, "They would take turns meeting at each member's home, where they organized voter registration drives and developed political strategies for supporting African-American candidates running for office.

Ms. Lewis was a Polling Inspector periodically for over thirty years. She relates that working as an Inspector "back then is very different than it is today. "First of all, they only received $2 a day to work at the Polls and during Presidential and State elections they worked from 6am to 12 midnight. She adds, "They did not work in schools or churches but in green shacks (if you can recall, those green shacks could be found on bricks during election time near the curb). Ms. Lewis further states, "There were no bathrooms in the shacks, so they would have to ask people in the neighborhood to allow them to use their bathroom during the work day. Once the Polls closed the Inspectors were required to take the ballot books downtown, and because few of the Black Inspectors had access to cars they would use 50 cents of the two dollars that they had been paid, to take a cab to the Board of Elections and walk back home.

Ms. Lewis retired from the Rugby's Knitting Mill, where she worked as a knitter and garment seamstress. The Mill was located on Jefferson Avenue within walking distance of her Hamlin Park home. The Mill is now known as 1490 Enterprises.

Charlotte Lewis has received numerous awards and plaques for her dedication and work in the Metropolitan Republican Women's Club and her church. She states that she would like to see the Republican Party develop more jobs and opportunities for young people. If you ask what advice she would give to our young people, her response is both encouraging and bi-partisan. She states, "I would like to see young people become more involved and active in politics. She adds, "If I had children, I would expect them to follow in my footsteps and achieve greater things."

On February 21, 2004, the Republicans of Color (ROC) paid tribute to Ms. Charlotte Lewis in honor of Black History Month.

Bio-sketch: Courtesy of Communications Committee of Republicans of Color