Remembering Dr. Robert Foster Lewis, Jr.

Dr. Robert Foster Lewis, Jr.
Dr. Robert Foster Lewis, Jr.

On July 17, 2019, Dr. Robert Foster Lewis, Jr, the first African-American Northeastern Research Station Director and Deputy Chief for Research & Development passed away. His memorial service was held on July 23, 2019 in Media, Pennsylvania. He was 74.

Born in Sunflower County, Mississippi in 1945, he was the husband of Mattie Ducking Lewis and the son of the late Robert Lewis, Sr. and Cora Foster Lewis.

Dr. Robert Lewis, Jr. graduated from Gentry High School in 1965.  He attended college at Jackson State University, where he met the love of his life, Mattie. After graduating with a B.S. degree in Biology, he started working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service in Stoneville, MS as a research scientist specializing in Southern hardwood trees.  In 1976, Robert received his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Plant Pathology from Texas A&M University along with several Certificates of Merit and Appreciation for his groundbreaking research on the devastating Oak Wilt Disease. In 1986, Robert moved to the Philadelphia area to accept a promotion and later became a certified member of the Senior Executive Service in 1992 at the former Northeastern Forest Experiment Station in Radnor, Pensylvania. He was a pioneer in many ways at both the regional and national level. Robert served under several U.S. Presidents and received national recognition for his performance and leadership, including leading the new vision statement and guiding principles for the agency. He was a member of many civic, religious and professional organizations including a past member of the Society of American Foresters.  Robert retired from the Forest Service in January 2004 after a highly esteemed career in the federal government.  

Dr. Lewis was known as Robert among colleagues and employees and was affectionately known as “Bobby” by his siblings and family, whom he really loved! He was an outstanding husband to his wife Mattie and they recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in December 2018. Dr. Lewis was a proud patriarch to his four children and grandfather to six grandchildren.  

In addition to his wife Mattie, he is survived by his children: Dr. Eldrin Lewis (Rhonda) of Boston, MA, Danette M Wright (Bryant) of Cordova, TN, Zanetta Amber Lewis (Barry) of Montville, NJ, Robert Lewis III of Thornton, PA; six  grandchildren, Christian, Kennedy, Candace, Kasey, Christopher, and Kaelyn; his brothers, Cleo Lewis (Vivian) of Jackson, MS, Kenneth Lewis of Arlington, TX, Eric Lewis of Carrollton, TX, Carlous Lewis (Kenya) of Seagoville, TX; his sisters, Ocenola Lewis of Miami, FL, Janet Thomas of Greenville, MS, Jacquelyn Fleming (Howard) of Frisco, TX, and Debra Ann Lewis of Metcalfe, MS. He was predeceased by brothers, Andrew Lewis, Wendell Lewis, Albert Lewis and sister, Indiana Lewis. In addition, he leaves behind the many loving brother- and sister-in-laws, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

He will be sorely and deeply missed by his family, friends and all who got a chance to work with or for him throughout his stellar professional career.