Memories of Martin Luther King Jr. Lewis Driskell Looks Back

Not many people can claim that Martin Luther King Jr. was one of their fraternity brothers. But Lewis E. Driskell, Sr., a well-loved member of the Flint community, can not only make that claim, he can also say that he continues to live by the values and beliefs of the civil rights leader who is honored this month on January 19. My City Magazine visited Lewis at his home to talk about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his impact on the Flint resident’s life.
Photo by Mike Naddeo

Photo by Mike Naddeo

Lewis was born in Georgia and raised in Washington D.C. He attended a black college in Alabama – the Tuskegee Institute as it was then known. Upon graduation, Lewis was hired by the Institute as a printer in the school’s graphic arts department. It was during this time that he met MLK, who lived in Montgomery, Alabama (about 40 miles away). Back before he got his doctorate and became the leader of the civil rights movement, MLK was a preacher. He used to come to Tuskegee every Tuesday evening to speak at different churches. Lewis printed the literature needed for his speaking engagements, and the men shared the common bond of being Alpha Phi fraternity brothers. “Being a fraternity brother, I got to know him pretty good,” Lewis remembers, “and I remember his energy. People were just energized by him.” As the head of the printing department at the time, Lewis made copies of MLK’s speeches for his Tuesday night visits. “At that time, MLK was not the icon he is today; he was just a preacher,” Lewis remembers. But even then, Lewis says he knew this man was something special.


Photo by Mike Naddeo

Lewis moved to Flint in the early sixties. In 1973, he purchased the Union Printing Company and built a successful business providing printing for many of the local unions. He was very active in the community, and although he had opportunities to move his business to the suburbs, he wanted to stay in the city of Flint so he could help make a difference. He was involved with many local organizations and served on many boards, including the Flint Chamber of Commerce, Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, United Way of Genesee and Lapeer Counties and the Flint Urban League. Lewis was named the 1990 Citizen of the Year and received the Charles Stewart Mott Memorial Award for the role he took in helping build Flint and making it a better place for everyone to live. “My family has always strived to make a difference,” he humbly said.

Lewis is now semi-retired from his printing business. Reflecting on the past, he says, “Martin Luther King, Jr. played a major role in society, and being a part of that means so much to me. My background, including the interaction I had with him, greatly influenced my life. It was instilled in me to be active in my community.” And because of all of the people who have been active, Lewis believes that many positive changes have taken place in Flint. “We should be proud,” he says. ♦


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