A Tribute to a Friend

A Tribute to a Friend
CBC’s Ben Waters Speaks of Lost Legend J.D. Lewis

On Saturday, February 24, 2007, CBC legend J.D. Lewis was laid to rest. Former long-time CBC employee Ben Waters, a past WRAL-TV News Director and Corporate Community Relations Vice President among other titles, gave a moving tribute at Lewis’ funeral. Capcom would like to share his words with our readers.

J.D. Lewis
J.D. Lewis, a hero, a legend and a friend.

A Tribute to J. D. Lewis by Ben Waters

J. D. reported to me during the last 15 years of his employment at Capitol Broadcasting Company.  It is quite easy for me to say that I learned more from J. D. than he learned from me.

J. D. was well educated, well liked, well respected, and articulate.  He cared about people and their problems.  He wanted to fix things.  He was always for the underdog.

Many a time he came to me suggesting that the company contribute money to this cause or that one.  It was hard to turn him down.  Most of the time I approved his recommendations.

The longer we worked together, the more I came to respect the things he stood for. 

There are many people at Capitol Broadcasting Company today who are there because they stood on J. D.’s shoulders.  And his were strong shoulders.

In his lifetime, J. D. Lewis had many firsts…first in this, first in that…almost too many to mention.  I think beside his service in the Marine Corps, he was perhaps most proud of his family. And, being the first black man on radio in North Carolina. 

He was hired by Fred Fletcher to be an announcer at WRAL-AM way back in 1948.  He was a trailblazer in more ways than one.  I think he was also proud of the many television programs in which he was involved, including Teenage Frolics.

In lieu of a traditional retirement gift, Capitol Broadcasting Company joined with the A. J. Fletcher Foundation to make a contribution to the Garner Road YMCA.  It was used to make a needed addition.  We’re very proud that it is called the J. D. Lewis Multipurpose Center.  And after the service and internment, everyone is invited the Center for food and refreshments.

J. D.’s death leaves a huge void in this city.  I hope that someone will be strong enough to step in his shoes and continue the J. D. Lewis mantra of getting things done.

My wife called to my attention a poem by Maya Angelou that could be a description of the kind of man J. D. was.  Its entitled “When Great Trees Fall.” 

From the book Celebrations Rituals of Peace and Prayer by Maya Angelou

When Great Trees Fall

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe briefly,
our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
Our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
After a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
Irregularly.  Spaces fill
With a kind of soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us,
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.


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