This Day in Black History: Dec. 7, 1942

Reginald F. Lewis, renowned businessman, was born.

Posted: 12/07/2012 08:00 AM EST

Reginald F. Lewis was one of the most successful African-American businessmen of the 20th century and the first Black businessman to purchase a company for $1 billion.

In 1992, Forbes listed Lewis as one of the 400 richest Americans, with a net worth of $400 million. Born in Baltimore, Lewis grew up in a middle-class neighborhood. He won a football scholarship to Virginia State University, graduating with a degree in economics in 1965. Lewis graduated from Harvard Law School in 1968.

Immediately after law school he was recruited to top New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, but left to start his own firm two years later. After 15 years as a corporate lawyer with his own practice, he created TLC Group L.P., a venture capital firm in 1983. In 1987, Lewis purchased the international operations of the Beatrice Cos. for $985 million. With Lewis’ purchase, it became the first Black-owned company to have more than $1 billion in annual sales. At its peak in 1996, TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc. had sales of $2.2 billion and was number 512 on Fortune magazine's list of 1,000 largest companies. He died in 1993 at age 50 from brain cancer.

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(Photo: Wikicommons)

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