Aug 06, 2022

Lewis Plaza dedication held Friday evening in Hutchinson

Posted Aug 06, 2022 10:08 AM

Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — The Hutchinson Emancipation Celebration kicked off Friday evening with a special dedication of a plaque honoring Chester I. Lewis. The plaque was presented during a special ceremony at the plaza named in his honor. In attendance was Brenda Davis, the daughter of Chester I. Lewis who talked about what it means to have the plaza named in her fathers honor.

“I think my father would be very honored that this plaza is in his name,” Davis said. “That it highlights the things that he felt strongly about.”

Lewis was a voice not only for education for many other things as well when it came to civil rights.

Lewis park 1.jpg
Lewis park 1.jpg

“He felt strongly about equality, quality in the aircraft industry; he was a firm believer in education,” Davis said. “He opened the pools and the schools. He dedicated his life to civil rights.” 

Davis says the park brings a permanent message to younger people about what it means to work for equality.

“My father used to say ”do you want to be free” and to be free everyone has to be free,” Davis said. “I think younger people, they haven’t had that struggle.”

Davis refers to segregation in local businesses and other areas. She says that message needs to not be lost.

Lewis, a Hutchinson native, was a prominent local Civil Rights leader who served on the legal team that argued the landmark 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education case before the U.S. Supreme Court. He also provided guidance to the NAACP Youth Council during the first successful series of student sit-ins at the Dockum Drug Store lunch counter in Wichita in 1958. 

Their courage inspired other similar sit-ins across the country and helped bring about racial equality at places including restaurants, businesses and swimming pools.

The dedication was part of the annual Emancipation Celebration which runs through the weekend in Hutchinson.