Theodore Lewis, Sr. was born on June 8, 1930 to the late Reverend John T. and Esther Lee Green Lewis in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the 2nd oldest of six children. He was baptized at an early age, and became a member of Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church, where he served as Chairman of the Trustee Board for 27 years. He was also a member of the Layman League.
Theodore (affectionately called Buddy as a youth by his family) was educated in the public schools of Nashville, TN. He was a 1949 graduate of Pearl Senior High School where he was drum major in the marching band and a member of the theatre guild. He received the coveted Creative Dramatic Guild award and was also voted Neatest by his senior class. In 1950 he began his matriculation at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial (A&I) State University (now Tennessee State University). In 1952, while at Tennessee A&I State University he was drafted into the United States Army and stationed at Camp Rucker, Alabama where he was honored to be named drum major of the military band. In 1954 he was honorably discharged and received the distinguished National Defense Service Medal. He then returned to Tennessee A&I State University where he marched in the prestigious Tennessee A&I State University marching band under the direction of J. D. Chavis, and later, Frank T. Greer. He was a member of the band when they performed during the half-time show of a Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams professional football game. It was the first time a historically black college or university band had appeared on national television.
Prior to graduating from Tennessee A&I State University with a Bachelor of Arts in History and a minor in Geography in 1956, Theodore’s father purchased a store front in north Nashville and gave him the keys to start his own grocery store called Pet Market. His father told him from this point on he would work for himself. He was just 24 years old. When Theodore had a class, his mother would run the store. Upon graduating Tennessee A&I State University, his desire was to teach, but he became thoroughly involved with his Father’s real estate company, John T. Lewis Real Estate Company, where he served as Office Manager. In 1957, he was accepted to the University Of Tennessee College Of Law, where his desire was to study Real Estate law. As fate would have it, he lost both parents while in law school, so he dropped out to run his Father’s real estate company and to care for his 5 brothers and sisters. He was 27 years old.
Theodore continued his education, and graduated from the Weaver School of Real Estate in 1961. He also married the love of his life, the former Gloria Mosley, that year. She bore two children from their union, Cheryl Lynn and Theodore Jr. Theodore subsequently completed course work in: Contracts and Real Estate Law at the Nashville YMCA Law School; Appraisal in the Appraisal Training Institute at Vanderbilt University; Housing Management Principles in the National Housing Management Institute at Georgia State University. He also became a member of the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors and the National Association of Real Estate Appraisers.
In 1969, Theodore became the first African-American to become an appraiser for the Veterans Administration of Middle Tennessee. He also began working with a project that became a lifelong passion. Theodore had a strong desire to help the less fortunate by providing them affordable housing opportunities, and he became the Development Manager of Phyllis Wheatley Homes, Inc., the first U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidized housing development for African-American senior citizens in Nashville. He eventually became President of the Corporation, and served selflessly, for almost 50 years, to improve the living environment of the Phyllis Wheatley Homes residents. The following year, Theodore opened a real estate company in his own name. Theodore Lewis Real Estate Co. allowed Theodore to fulfill his goal of finding affordable housing opportunities that uplifted individuals and families from dependency to homeownership. Theodore was a highly respected realtor and appraiser, and helped to uplift many in his profession through mentoring. Theodore also served the federal and local governments by offering his expertise to both the HUD and Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority Appraisal Panels. Theodore was also a member of the Agora Assembly, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, and the Masonic Order.
Theodore will be gravely missed and is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Gloria M. Lewis; children, Cheryl Lewis Vowels (Robert) of Rochester Hills, MI; Theodore Lewis, Jr. (Michelle) of Canton, GA; grandchildren, Robert C. Vowels, III, Devin E. Vowels, Alexandria M. Lewis, and Theodore J. Lewis; twin sister, Theodora Howell; brothers-in-laws, Richard A. Hogg, Sr., Herman I. Mosley, Jr. (Adelaide); sisters-in-laws, Constance Mosley Johnson, Annette Mosley Patrick (Robert); and a host of nieces, nephews, family and friends.