Edward Shakespeare Lewis was born on May 15th,1940, in the Bronx. Lewis attended DeWitt Clinton High School, where he excelled academically and was a star fullback on the football team. Upon graduating from high school in 1958, he earned a football scholarship. Upon graduating from high school in 1958, he earned a football scholarship to the University of New Mexico. Lewis received his B.A. degree in political science in 1964 and his M.A. degree in political science and international relations in 1966, both from the University of New Mexico. He later graduated from Harvard University’s Small Business Management Program. He then went on to work at various financial institutions until serving as the CEO and publisher of Essence Communications,Inc, for three decades. In the 1980s and the 1990s, Lewis expanded Essence Communications to include a weekly television show, fashion line, and mail order catalogue. In 1997, Lewis became the first African American chairman of the Magazine Publishers of America. In October 2000, Lewis engineered a partnership with Time, Inc. and Essence Communications was sold to Time in2005. He later joined the private equity firm Solera Capital as a senior adviser and published a memoir, The Man from Essence: Creating a Magazine for Black Women, in 2014.
Lewis served on President Barack Obama’s Board of Advisors for the Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Many of his personal awards include the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Publishing from Ernst & Young; the President’s Award from One Hundred Black Men of America, Inc.; the Frederick Douglass Award from the New York Urban League; the United Negro College Fund’s Lifetime Achievement Award; the American Advertising Federation Diversity Achievement Award; the Henry Johnson Fisher Lifetime Achievement Award; and the Henry Luce Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 2014.