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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Lewis, Richard Henry

by James Francis Harper, 1991

18 Feb. 1850–6 Aug. 1926

Lewis, Richard H. (Richard Henry), 1850-1926. From the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill. Richard Henry Lewis, physician, teacher, and legislative counselor, the son of Richard Henry and Martha Elizabeth Hoskins Lewis, was born at Greenwreath near Greenville. He attended Owens School and the Tarboro Male Academy and entered The University of North Carolina in 1866. Until the university closed in 1868, he led his class in scholastic ability. In the fall of that year he entered the University of Virginia where his primary studies were philosophy and French, and in the fall of 1869 he began to study medicine. In 1870 he entered the School of Medicine at the University of Maryland, from which he was graduated on 1 Mar. 1871 with the M.D. degree. He remained in Baltimore for two years as resident and later as assistant physician in the University of Maryland Hospital. Returning to North Carolina, he engaged in general practice in Tarboro for a few months before determining to specialize in the treatment of eye and ear diseases. He began studies under Dr. Julian J. Chisholm in Baltimore and afterwards continued at the Royal Ophthalmic Hospital in London. In 1875 he began a practice in Savannah, Ga.

Finally settling in Raleigh, Lewis became a member of the North Carolina State Medical Society in 1877, the Board of Medical Examiners in 1880 (elected president, 1890), the North Carolina State Board of Health in 1885 (secretary, 1892–1909), and the American Public Health Association (president, 1908). For thirty-five years he served on the board of trustees of The University of North Carolina and for many years he was a member of the From the Health Sciences Library, UNC-Chapel Hillexecutive committee. For twenty-three years he was a trustee and a member of the executive committee of St. Mary's School, Raleigh, and for twenty-eight years he worked diligently for the education of blacks, serving as professor of the diseases of the eye and ear in Leonard Medical School of Shaw University, Raleigh. For seven years he also was professor of the diseases of the eye and ear in the medical department of The University of North Carolina.

Lewis was influential in securing some of the earliest legislation for the improvement of rural roads, and while chairman of the street committee of the Raleigh Board of Aldermen he was responsible for the use of the first road machine in the city. For many years he was a member of the board of directors and, after 1916, second vice-president of the Citizens National Bank of Raleigh. At Christ Church he was an active member and senior warden.

His first wife was Cornelia Violet Battle, whom he married in 1877; she died in 1886 leaving four children: Richard Henry, Martha Battle, Kemp Plummer, and Ivey Foreman Lewis. In 1890 he married Mary Long Gordon, who died in 1895 leaving a daughter, Nell [Cornelia] Battle Lewis. His third wife, whom he married in 1897, was Mrs. Annie Blackwell Foreman; she died in 1917. Lewis was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh.


Charlotte Medical Journal 88 (1926).

Medical Society of the State of North Carolina, Transactions (1927).

North Carolina Biography, vols. 5 (1919), 3 (1929).

North Carolina Medical Journal 19 (1887).

John H. Wheeler, ed., Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians (1884).

Who Was Who in America, vol. 1 (1981).

Additional Resources:

Lewis, Richard Henry 1850-1926 in WorldCat:,%20richard%20henry$1850%201926

Richard Henry Lewis Family Bible Records, 1770-1926. (accessed March 19, 2013).

Lewis, Richard H. (Richard Henry). The care of the eyes and ears / by Richard H. Lewis. Wilmington, N.C. : North Carolina Board of Health. 1886. (accessed March 19, 2013).

Physicians and Surgeons of America: A Collection of Biographical Sketches of the Regular Medical Profession. Edited and compiled by Irving A. Watson. Concord, N.H.: Republican Press Association, 1896.

Image Credits:

Lewis, Richard H. (Richard Henry), 1850-1926. From the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill. Available from (accessed March 19, 2013).

Portrait from the Health Sciences Library, UNC-Chapel Hill. Available from (accessed March 19, 2013).