Aubrey Lewis (athlete)

Aubrey Lewis (c. 1935 – December 10, 2001) was an American football player and track athlete who was the first African American to be captain of a Notre Dame Fighting Irish athletic team and a member of the first Federal Bureau of Investigation agent training program to include black people.

Early life and educationEdit

Born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, Lewis grew up in nearby Montclair and attended Montclair High School, from which he graduated in 1954.[1][2] When he first tried out for the Mounties football team, a doctor performing a physical detected a rapid heart rate. Lewis, who had had a heart murmur since childhood told the doctor "Oh, I ran here all the way from my house", and received approval to play. During his high school career at Montclair, Lewis played basketball and won two state football championships with the football team, scoring 49 touchdowns and running for nearly 4,500 rushing yards during his career.[1] Lewis led Montclair to its second consecutive Group IV team championship and set state records in three different track and field events at the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association's track and field championships in 1953, winning at both 100 meters (in 9.8 seconds) and 220 meters (with a time of 21 seconds) and won the discus event with a record throw of 154 feet 1 inch (46.96 m).[3]

College athleticsEdit

Lewis chose the University of Notre Dame from a list of 200 schools that had offered him scholarships and played halfback for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. He was chosen by the Chicago Bears in the tenth round of the 1958 NFL Draft, the 113th pick overall, but an ankle injury prevented him from playing professionally. He won the NCAA's Division I championship in the 400 meter intermediate hurdles in 1956 but failed to make the United States team that would be competing at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, after he stumbled over the last hurdle in his heat at the Olympic trials in Los Angeles.[4] He went on to be elected as captain of the track team for the 1957–58 season, making him the first black athlete at the school to be chosen as a team captain.[1][5][6]

In 1961, while he was working as the head coach at Paterson Central High School, Lewis was chosen as player-coach of a team representing Newark in the Metropolitan Indoor Football League, which planned to play seven-on-seven games indoors during the winter.[7]

Professional careerEdit

In 1962, he was chosen to participate as a member of the first Federal Bureau of Investigation agent training program to include black people in its 14-week-long training program held at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.[1][8] In a September 1962 article in Ebony magazine, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover described the expanded recruiting effort as justified "based on his feeling that Negroes 'need more heroes' to encourage their youngsters."[9]

Lewis left the FBI in 1967 to take a position with Woolworth's, working with the firm in various roles, and was chosen as a senior vice president before his retirement in 1995. He was appointed to serve on both the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and the New Jersey Highway Authority.[1] Governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman appointed Lewis in 1997 to serve as a commissioner of the bi-state Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a position he filled until 1999.[10]


Lewis died at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center on December 10, 2001, at the age of 66. He was survived by his wife, Ann, as well as by two daughters and three sons.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Goldstein, Richard. "Aubrey Lewis, 66, Athlete Who Was an F.B.I. Pioneer", The New York Times, December 13, 2001. Accessed October 29, 2016.
  2. ^ Cooper, Darren. "'The Greatest Of The Mounties': Aubrey Lewis Passes Away At Age 66" Archived 2016-10-30 at the Wayback Machine, The Montclair Times, December 13, 2001. Accessed October 29, 2016.
  3. ^ via Associated Press. "Jersey Schoolboy Sets 3 Meet Marks; Lewis Leads Montclair High to Group IV Title, Winning 100, 220 and Discus", The New York Times, June 7, 1953. "Aubrey Lewis, Negro star from Montclair High, today broke three records as he led his school to a Group IV title at the thirty-fifth annual New Jersey Interscholastic A. A. track and field championships.... He won the 100-yard dash in 9.8 seconds, eclipsing the previous record of 9.91 220-yard dash in 21 seconds, breaking a 21.7 record; and discus throw with a heave of 154 feet 1 inch."
  4. ^ Tuckner, Howard M. "Notre Dame Track Star Starts Smiling Again; Failure in Olympic Hurdle Trials Sank Lewis in Despair", The New York Times, June 30, 1957. Accessed October 29, 2016.
  5. ^ "Lewis Elected Captain", The New York Times, June 7, 1957. Accessed October 29, 2016. "Aubrey Lewis of Montclair, N. J., today was elected 1958 captain of the Notre Dame track and field team. He is the first Negro named to a captaincy at Notre Dame."
  6. ^ LaFleur, Pete. "Champions in Life", University of Notre Dame. Accessed October 29, 2016. "Lewis was the first African-American ever to captain a Notre Dame team ('58 track), but an ankle injury derailed a shot at the NFL."
  7. ^ Staff. "Pro League for 7-Man Football Will Open in Jersey in January", The New York Times, September 13, 1961. Accessed October 29, 2016.
  8. ^ "A Byte Out of History; Early African-American Agents", Federal Bureau of Investigation, February 15, 2011. Accessed October 29, 2016. "Their struggles, though, paved the way for agents like Aubrey Lewis and James Barrow, who in 1962 became the first African-American agents accepted to the FBI Academy, ushering in a new era for minority agents in the Bureau."
  9. ^ Booker, Simeon. "J. Edgar Hoover – The Negro in the FBI; Director praises work of Negro agents in famous organization", Ebony (magazine), September 1962. Accessed October 29, 2016.
  10. ^ February 28, 2002, Meeting Minutes, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Accessed October 29, 2016. "WHEREAS, in 1997 Aubrey C. Lewis was appointed to the Board of Commissioners of The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, on which he served with great distinction as a member of the Committees on Finance and Operations and the Audit Committee until his retirement from the Board in 1999"