First Down Lewis

Mel Lewis ’53 was the first African-American Bronco athlete and ROTC cadet.

Mel Lewis ’53 was the first African-American Bronco athlete and ROTC cadet. He’s a senior tennis champ. And he returned to campus for the dedication of Veterans Plaza.

Photo courtesy of The Redwood.
One moment that Mel Lewis ’53 remembers vividly from his gridiron days at Santa Clara as the first African-American Bronco athlete: the football team was touring the South. He wasn’t a big guy—just 5 feet 6 inches—but played linebacker and fullback. There was a malt shop that served whites only. What to do? His fellow players surrounded him, he recalls, “and we all walked into the shop without incident and ordered malts.” Lewis, also the first African-American ROTC cadet at SCU, was back on campus in November to be honored at the blessing of the new Veteran’s Plaza. In San Jose, he and wife Ernestine rode in a convertible Mustang for the Veterans Day Parade. He spent decades as a teacher, coach, and dean in Los Angeles—after serving in the Army. He thanks SCU for helping him “become a better person and more informed citizen.” Lately tennis has been his sport. He was inducted into the Southern California Senior Tennis Hall of Fame in 2010, and the following year he represented the United States as a member of the Super Senior Tennis Team in the global invitational tournament in Turkey. He was part of the 80-year-old division. They won the world championship.

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post-image Veteran, teacher, coach, senior tennis champ. View full image. Photo by Charles Barry.
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