Lewis was born December 7, 1942 in Baltimore, Maryland. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia State University in 1965 and his Bachelor of Law degree from Harvard Law School in 1968. Over the next 15 years, Lewis helped a large number of Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Corporations (MESBICs) acquire funding.
It is estimated that Lewis negotiated more than $100 million in transactions for MESBICs between 1973 and 1984. In 1983, he formed the TLC Group and in 1984 purchased the McCall Pattern Company for $1 million. In 1987, he sold McCall for $95 million and purchased Beatrice International for $650 million, net of operations that he sold. In 1992, Forbes Magazine estimated Lewis’ net worth at $400 million.
That same year, Lewis gave $3 million to Harvard Law School to establish the Reginald F. Lewis International Law Center, the first building at the university named after an African American. Lewis’ autobiography, “Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?: How Reginald Lewis Created a Billion Dollar Business,” was published in 1995. In 2002, his foundation gave $5 million to open the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. The Reginald F. Lewis High School in Baltimore is named in his honor.