Reginald F. Lewis was born on December 7, 1942 in an East Baltimore neighborhood he once described as “semi-tough.” Lewis was strongly influenced by his family. His parents, grandparents. uncles, and aunts always encouraged Lewis to “be the best that you can be.” Reginald’s grandmother would teach him the importance of saving, even cutting and peeling strips from the bottom of a tin can and nailing it to the floor of a closet to protect his savings.
At the age of ten, Lewis set up a delivery route to sell the Afro American newspaper. After building the business from ten customers to more than a hundred in two years, he sold the route at a profit.
Lewis’ grandfather was headwaiter and maitre d’ at a private country club. It was while working there as a teenager that Lewis says his grandfather advised him. - “Know your job and do it well.” He also told Reginald stories about Paris during World War I, cultivating in him a lifelong love of French Language, food, and culture.
Reginald’s family stressed the value of education at an early age. Lewis received early schooling from the Oblate Sisters of Providence, established by women of African descent whose mission was teaching and caring for African American children. Later at Dunbar high School, he distinguished himself as an athlete on the playing field and a hard working student in the class room. He was quarterback of the football team shortstop for varsity baseball, a forward on the basketball team and was team captain of all three. Lewis was also elected vice president of the student body.