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In Memoriam


The name, as unique, remarkable and lovely as the lady herself, came from the Hebrew Biblical word “SHIBBOLETH” found in the Book of Judges 12:6.  

Shibbolethia Bryant {Smith} Lewis was born on August 13, 1920, in Shelbyville, Kentucky, the month and year that women were granted the right to vote.

Her father, Wiley Walter Smith, was a circuit minister for the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, which required the family to move quite often when she was a young girl.  Her mother, Lillian (Hoskins) Smith, was a homemaker who often worked as a domestic to help support her family. The family eventually settled in Hamilton, OH, where Shibbolethia (aka “Shibby”) grew up with her sisters, Margaret and Mollie, and brothers, Emanuel and Paul. Several other children born to the family would die in their early childhoods.

She attended Phillips Chapel (now St. Phillips Temple C.M.E. Church) and the public schools in Hamilton, graduating from Hamilton High School in 1938.

Accepted to Wilberforce University and graduating in 1942, she became the first member of her family to attend college. She majored in home economics as academic options were limited for Black women.

Shibbolethia met her husband, James Clark Lewis, to a United Service Organizations (U.S.O.) event while she was in college.  He was in the Army. After her husband was honorably discharged from the Army, the couple lived in Florida and Youngstown before settling in Toledo, OH. Mrs. Lewis held a civil service job in Rossford, OH, while her husband worked as a mail carrier, and later on as a cab driver. Four daughters were born of this union: Brenda, Anita, Cynthia, and Diana.

In the late 1950’s, when the Civil Rights Movement opened doors of opportunity for African Americans, Mrs. Lewis returned to college to obtain teaching credentials, and started her professional teaching career with the Toledo Public Schools (TPS).

She earned her Master’s degree in Education from the University of Toledo in 1962 while working and caring for her family.

A highly respected educator, she taught for many years at the former Roosevelt Elementary, then later at Gunckel and Jones Junior High School in Toledo. Mrs. Lewis is remembered to this day by many of her peers and students as a caring, creative, and skillful teacher.

Widowed in 1965, she became a single parent when her husband died from a heart attack at home. During this difficult time of her life, she had to assume new responsibilities that included learning how to drive for the first time.

A long-time member of the Phillips Temple C.M.E. Church in Toledo, OH, she served as Superintendent of Christian Education, conference delegate, missionary president, Sunday school teacher, and as chairperson for many programs, including Vacation Bible School.

A prolific writer, she wrote articles for The Christian Index (a C.M.E. Church publication), poems, and narrative speeches. She published a collection of intercessory prayers in 1998. She is known for her “ministry” of calling, writing, and sending cards to encourage and to keep in touch with family and friends.

Mrs. Lewis moved to Missouri City, TX, in August, 1997, to live with daughter, Cynthia, and son-in-law, Bernis Hickman, both formerly of Toledo. They welcomed her and served as loving and devoted caregivers for 20 years, providing her with a rich, full life.

On October 13th, 2007, she was able to attend and celebrate her 69th high school reunion in Hamilton with the class of 1938. She was 87 years old at the time.

In November of 2008, at the age of 88, she was so happy and proud to cast her vote for the first African American President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama; who sent her a proclamation in August 2010 acknowledging her 90th birthday.

Despite many life challenges, she remained a woman of grace, strength, character and perseverance, with a twinkle in her eyes and heart full of love for God and her family.

Mrs. Lewis, 97, passed away at her home on Sunday, August 20, 2017 under the care of Compassus Hospice - Houston.

She was preceded in death by:  her husband, James Clark Lewis; great-grandparents, Richard and Hannah (French) Morris; grandparents, Emanuel and Maggie (Morris) Hoskins; parents, Rev. Wiley W. and Lillian( Hoskins) Smith; her siblings: Mollie, Paul, and Emanuel Smith; and Margaret Smith - Doyle; one aunt, Pearlena (aka ‘Vanilla’) Hoskins; uncles, Pete (Rosa Lee), and James (Minnie) Hoskins; a beloved niece, Margaret Wood; nephews, David Smith, Emanuel Merritt , and Kevin Smith; great nephew, Donald Wood; and great grandson, Feniks James Hughes.

She is survived by daughters: Brenda L. Lewis, RN, MSN-Ed; Dr. Anita M. Lewis-Sewell, BA, MD; Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman, RN, MSN-Ed, PhD; and Diana L. Hughes B.S.Ed., M.Ed.; Son-in Law, Bernis Hickman, a retired U.S. Postal Service employee; grandchildren:  Teresa (Zac) Hinton, Brenda (Donzell) Gulley-Moore, Bridgette Lynn Johnson-Ellis, Kerri K. King, Maria (Larry) Wilson, Michael (TerriLynn) Lemons, Ebrandia (Tyrone) Perry, James C. Hughes III, Jason T. Hamilton; nephews, Richard “Dick”  (Jackie) Smith, Stanley Merritt, Timothy Fields, Henry Fields; special friend, Henry Farley, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and great grandchildren. She was greatly loved and will be greatly missed by us all.

A Memorial Service celebrating the life of Mrs. Shibbolethia B. Lewis will be held on Saturday, September 9, 2017, at 1 p.m. at the Warren African American Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, 915 Collingwood Blvd. in Toledo, OH.

Funeral and burial will be in Missouri City on Saturday, September 16, 2017. Visitation and viewing are from 10 a.m. -11 a.m. at Willowridge Missionary Baptist Church, 2803 S. Main Street, Stafford, TX 77477. Home-going celebration will begin at 11 A.M with Dr. Clifton Montgomery, Jr., officiating.

The private interment service will be at Houston National Cemetery, 10410 Veterans Memorial Dr., in Houston, TX 77038.


Copyright © 2017 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/16/18 14:12:37 -0700.

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