Adolphus Lewis, Jr. (1920-2002) Flight Officer/Bombardier (Class T 140-136)
Adolphus Lewis, Jr. was a Charter member of the Philadelphia Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.
Adolphus Lewis, Jr. was born May 4, 1920, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest of five children, born to Adolphus Lewis, Sr. and Thomasina Entzminger Lewis.
Adolphus was educated in the Philadelphia Public School system and graduated from Central High School, before matriculating at Howard University. During World War II, Adolphus left his college studies to serve his country in the Army of the United States. After the war, he concluded his education with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and his B.S. in Education from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art.
Adolphus entered the armed forces on August 19, 1942, as an aviation student and his specialty was that of a bombardier. He was promoted to corporal on March 15, 1944, and on December 29, 1944, was honorably discharged from Midland Army Airfield, Midland, Texas to accept an appointment as a flight officer. On December 30, 1944, Adolphus entered active duty as a Bombardier 1035 and attended service schools for Primary Pilot Training, Adv. Bombardier Training, Adv. Navigation Training and Gunnery Training (Pre-Flight Pilot). He was part of the “Tuskegee Pilots Training Experiment,” which trained Black pilots for service in the war. As an original Tuskegee Airman with 477th Bomber Group, he helped to integrate the United States Air Force and inspired his fellow servicemen and servicewomen.
During his time in the service, on April 5, 1945, he was involved in the Freeman Field Mutiny. This occurred when Black officers were arrested for defying Colonel Robert R. Selway’s “Jim Crow” order. This order barred the Black officers from entering an officers’ club that he wanted to keep exclusively for use by white officers. The officers were arrested in three groups. Adolphus was in group two and totaled 36 Black officers. However, the following day, they continued to defy Col. Selway and another 25 were arrested. A total of 61 Black officers were under arrest. After two days of arrest, 58 of the officers were released. Col. Selway continued to hold three men under arrest: Roger C. Terry, Marsden A. Thompson and Shirley R. Clinton. Col. Selway was very unhappy with the actions of these officers and wrote Base Regulation 85-2 and ordered all officers to sign an endorsement to this regulation that the officer had read and understood the regulation which in effect barred the Black officers from the white officers’ club. Over a period of two days 101 Black officers refused to sign the regulation and were placed under arrest. Adolphus was arrested twice for defying the regulation.
In a 1996 ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia, President Bill Clinton pardoned the records of all 101 Black officers and Adolphus’ record was wiped clean.
In January of 1946, while serving in the Air force, Adolphus met and married Jean Hardwick of Philadelphia. Adolphus and Jean were blessed with three children, Michele, Adolphus, III and Leslie.
Adolphus touched the lives of many young students as a respected arts teacher at the Robert Vaux Junior High School, from which he retired after more than thirty years of service. While at Vaux Junior High, Adolphus also spent a semester at Villanova University as an instructor under the aegis of the Philadelphia School System.
The educator’s proudest accomplishment was in his stewardship of “Camp Mohawk in the Catskills”, a private overnight interracial summer camp for boys and girls between the ages of seven and sixteen located on 268 acres of woodland and rolling plains in Jewett, Green County, New York. He owned and operated the camp with co-owner Samuel Watts, Jr. from 1960-1963 and solely with his wife, Jean until 1977. At Camp Mohawk, Adolphus touched and helped shape the lives of hundreds of boys and girls, young men and women.
Adolphus was an active member of Ye Olde Philadelphia Club, the Philadelphia Howard University Alumni, Greater Philadelphia Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and Lewis’ Water Sports in San Juan, Puerto Rico which he owned and operated with his son Adolphus “Chipper” Lewis, III.
He passed away on November 5, 2002, in Carolina, Puerto Rico where he and his wife had a winter home. For his memorial service, his wife, Jean, received a personal condolence letter from President Bill and Hillary Clinton commending his service as a Tuskegee Airman and helping to “move the process of having a fully integrated armed forces, and showed the world that people of all races were worthy of the fight”. Jean passed away January 7, 2006, in Philadelphia.
Adolphus and Jean leave their three children Michele Lewis-Bell Roberts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Adolphus Lewis, III (Maritilde), Caguas, Puerto Rico; and Leslie Lewis Dorsey, Burke, Virginia to carry on their legacy.