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Columbia Missourian

College Football Hall of Fame inductee Leo Lewis was a family man

By Julia Bush
September 3, 2013 | 9:25 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Leo Lewis Jr. was known as the "Lincoln Locomotive" as a football player at Lincoln University, but to his wife he was "just normal."

"He was kind of a quiet man," Betty Lewis said. "He was just loving, caring and fun to be around."

Leo Everett Lewis Jr. died Friday, Aug. 30, 2013. He was 80 years old.

Mr. Lewis was born Feb. 4, 1933, in Des Moines, Iowa, to Leo and Irene Lewis. He graduated from Marshall High School in St. Paul, Minn., where he was an all-city athlete in football, basketball and track.

He was hesitant to attend college after his father died during his senior year of high school, but his mother persuaded him to continue his education at Lincoln University.

The university's football team was undefeated for two of the four years Mr. Lewis played there. Off the field, he was a member of the ROTC.

Mr. Lewis was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005 and to the Lincoln University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.

Despite his many accomplishments, he remained humble.

"When he was home, he was home," Betty Lewis said. 

In 1955, Mr. Lewis was drafted by the Baltimore Colts, but he chose to play for the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg, Canada, instead. Eleven years and four Grey Cups (Canadian Football League championship wins) later, he retired from professional football to spend more than 32 years coaching and teaching.

After moving to Columbia, Mr. Lewis earned a master's from MU, coached football at Hickman High School and worked for the Missouri Department of Agriculture. He later returned to Lincoln University to coach football, golf and women's basketball. 

In addition to sports, Mr. Lewis was also dedicated to the Fifth Street Christian Church and to his family.

"He led by example — he wasn't an overbearing person," said Mr. Lewis' son, Leo Lewis III. "He just treated you like an adult and expected you to make the right decisions."

Mr. Lewis is survived by his wife; sons, Leo Lewis III of Minneapolis, Marc Lewis of St. Joseph, Mo., Barry Lewis of Columbia, Victor Sanders of Columbia and Robert Sanders of the Virgin Islands; five brothers and four sisters; and eight grandchildren. 

His parents; first wife Doris Marie Henson Lewis; and sister Gloria Jones died earlier.

Visitation will be held Sunday, Sept. 8, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Millard Family Funeral Home, 12 E. Ash St. A celebration of life is planned for 1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, at Broadway Christian Church, 2601 W. Broadway.

Memorial contributions can be sent to Fifth Street Christian Church, 401 N. Fifth St., Columbia, MO 65201, or Lincoln University, 820 Chestnut St., Jefferson City, MO 65101.

Condolences for the family can be left at