Born in an East Baltimore neighborhood on December 7, 1942, Reginald F. Lewis was brought up by a family that inspired him to “be the best you can be.” And so he did, excelling in his studies, graduating from Harvard Law School in 1968, and establishing Wall Street’s first African American law firm in 1970. Mr. Lewis went on to reach unprecedented heights in the fields of law, business, and philanthropy, and was revered by family, friends, and business associates alike.
Members of the GW community heard first-hand accounts of the life and legacy of Mr. Lewis at a special event sponsored by the GW Black Alumni Association (GWBAA) at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore, MD. Joining in the conversation were Mr. Lewis’ brother and nephew, both of whom are GW graduates and members of the GWBAA.
“My uncle was a global entrepreneur long before people spoke—or even thought—in such terms,” says Mr. Lewis’ nephew, Russell Fugett, GWSB MS ’07, President and Chief Revenue Officer of Good Word Digital, a Baltimore-based technology and consulting firm. “I was in my early teens when my uncle passed. A lot of what I know about his legacy comes from my grandmother, father, aunts, uncles, and former business partners, that is, keep going—no matter what—with persistence, patience, and prayer.”
Highlighting the impact of this extended family and its far-reaching influence, both Russell and his father, Jean Fugett, LAW JD ‘81, spoke at the event. Mr. Fugett senior, a former GW Board of Trustee member who attended GW Law School classes while playing for the Washington Redskins, has always been a role model for his son. “My father is an intellectual giant and a voracious reader,” says Russell. “His knowledge of history and current events allows him to spot trends and opportunities. The foundational principals upon which I founded my technology and consulting firm, I owe to him.”
Although both father and son attended GW, their experience on the campus was vastly different. “My father would leave football practice, go to class at the law school, then meet [Washington Redskin] John Riggins at a bar after class,” says Russell, who spent much of his extracurricular time working at the Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC).
“In my role at the MSSC, I worked on traditional programs like Black Heritage Celebration, but I also helped launch new initiatives, like Native American Heritage Celebration and Mixed Race Awareness Celebration.”
As an aside, Russell adds, “Of course, I also had the chance to keep an eye on my sister, Audie (Fugett) Jones, CCAS BA ’08.”
Russell reflected on the gathering at the museum where he and his father facilitated an in-depth discussion on a variety of topics: the life and legacy of the late Reginald F. Lewis; anecdotes about Jean Fugett’s time in the NFL, at GW law school, and later on the Board of Trustees; and how these two patriarchs influenced their nephew and son, igniting the entrepreneurial spirit in him as well.
The event also included a self-guided tour of the museum’s exhibits, including a special video exhibit titled “Question Bridge: Black Males,” a filmed conversation with over 150 Black men from twelve U.S. cities on such topics as family, love, education, and violence.
“The point of the video project is to deconstruct stereotypes,” says Russell. “I am blessed to be descended from a free African who fought in the American Revolutionary war. So in my own way, by sharing my family story and history, I can help counteract some of the stereotypes of Black Americans being less deserving of the rights and freedoms we have been promised, when it’s estimated that over 10,000 Black men fought to found this nation.”