Former Memphis school board member, activist passes away

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Former Memphis School Board member and community activist Sara Lewis is being remembered for her passion after she passed away at her home Monday.

Memphis-Shelby County Schools said in a statement Tuesday, “Today, we learned of the loss of Sara Lewis, a retired school board member who fought fiercely for equity and educational excellence. May the bright light of her legacy guide us to build the Memphis our children deserve.”

  • Sara Lewis (Courtesy: Memphis-Shelby County Schools)
    Sara Lewis (Courtesy: Memphis-Shelby County Schools)
  • Courtesy: Memphis-Shelby County Schools
    Courtesy: Memphis-Shelby County Schools

Lewis was on the Memphis School Board before it merged with Shelby County. But before that, she was a teacher and assistant superintendent.

Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton noticed Lewis’ passion when they both were at LeMoyne College.

“She was very, very bright, articulate, energetic and opinionated,” he said.

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Lewis impressed Herenton even more when he became Memphis School Superintendent.

“And I promoted Sara from an elementary school principal to become the assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction,” Herenton said. “And in those days, April, that was quantum leap. But I saw so much in her.”

Lewis served a long term on the Memphis School Board.

“We must not limit ourselves and be blinded by our own preconceived notions,” Lewis said during a school board meeting.

Dr. Jeff Warren, a current Memphis City Councilmember, met Lewis while on the school board. He calls her a wealth of wisdom.

“You would always have to listen to really long stories, and the meetings would be much longer. But you had to listen because at the end of the story, here was a pearl of wisdom every time,” he said.

Warren said Lewis became like family.

“She was a great lady now. She had an incredible temper, and she’d tell you exactly what she thought,” he said.

Herenton said he spoke with Lewis just weeks ago and he remembers the last text she sent him.

“She said, ‘Willie, we are leaving here, day by day. Take care,'” he recalled.

No cause of death has been given for Sara Lewis. We are awaiting details on her funeral.

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