He also played a significant role in expanding opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities in the American diplomatic corps.
Before entering the Foreign Service, Lewis spent 23 years in the U.S. Navy. A student at Dartmouth College, Lewis enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and served until 1966. He returned to Dartmouth to work with the N.R.O.T.C and to teach Naval Science while still on active duty. He completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Government while at Dartmouth.
In 1966 he joined the United States Information Agency (USIA) a Cold War-era diplomatic agency intended to promote American culture abroad. He chose to serve with the agency because he believed he would have more direct engagement with foreign nationals than in the State Department.
Before he was appointed his first ambassadorial post to Sierra Leone, he served in Romania, Zambia, Ethiopia, and Lagos until he was appointed the director of the agency. He was appointed Ambassador to Sierra Leone by President Ronald Reagan, and served until he retired in 1986.