Scholarship established at GSU for long-time educator and area pastor

Clifton Lewis served as a dedicated educator and pastor for more than three decades. His wife of 39 years, Shirley Lewis, remembers him as a deeply spiritual man whose life was defined by giving back to the community he loved so much.

“He knew no limits to reaching out to his fellow man and showed a genuine kindness and love to all who knew him. He was propelled forward by an incessant desire to be a servant in whom God was well pleased,” Shirley Lewis said.

Shirley and Clifton Lewis were both dedicated educators. Shirley Lewis, who worked as the K-12 curriculum coordinator at Grambling Laboratory Schools until her retirement in 2014, felt the best way to honor her husband’s memory was to help young people attend the university they both attended and loved by establishing a $1,000 scholarship in his honor.

The Rev. Clifton E. Lewis Non-Endowed Memorial Scholarship is given annually to incoming freshman from Claiborne, Jackson, Lincoln and Union Parishes who have a 3.0 GPA and are following in Lewis’ example by actively participating in their church. The four parishes represent the locations where Lewis worked as an educator and pastor over his lifetime.

Clifton Lewis was born in 1951 and grew up in Farmersville, La. He earned a Bachelor of Science in English Education from Grambling State University in 1975 and later earned a Master of Art in Literature in 1992 and his 30+ in Supervision and Administration in 2001. As an educator for over three decades, Lewis served as dean of students, assistant principal, director of Option III Program, director of Title IV Drug Free Schools and principal in Union, Lincoln and Claiborne parishes. In earlier years, he worked as coordinator for communications and assistant business manager at Grambling State University. In his final years, he served as principal of Homer High School in Homer, La.

Lewis answered the call to ministry in 1980. He was licensed to preach the gospel in 1981 and was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1982. He served as pastor of St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church in Ruston, New Land Baptist Church in Bernice and New Galilee Baptist Church in Jonesboro.

He also spent 15 years as pastor of Mount Harmony Missionary Baptist Church in Ruston. Under his leadership, the church flourished and established a daycare, elder care program and family life center during Lewis’ tenure. The Clifton E. Lewis Family Life Center was named and dedicated in his honor in 2013.

Shirley Lewis thinks her husband would have been pleased that the first recipient of his scholarship, Brianna Cotton, a 19-year-old freshman majoring in social work, is one of his former students from Homer High School.

“That makes it even more extraordinary. How awesome that the first recipient would have an actual connection to him and be able to benefit from him even now. He wanted the best for his students. He wanted them all to do their best,” she said.

Cotton is a very active member of her church, Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Homer, who sings in the choir, dances as a praise dancer and helps teach Sunday School. She remembers Lewis as a principal who believed in his students and motivated them to succeed in academics.

“He was a good principal. We got along well. He kept us motivated,” she said.

GLEN LEWIS/The YEARBOOK Brianna Cotton (far right) stands with Shirley Lewis and son Everett.

Brianna Cotton (far right) stands with Shirley Lewis and son Everett.