Longtime local civil rights leader Rev. Lewis Stewart has died
A longtime local civil rights leader has died. The Rev. Lewis Stewart Jr. died at his home in Rochester on Friday at age 77.
That’s according to information released Saturday by the United Christian Leadership Ministry (UCLM), which Stewart co-founded in 2013. He served as its president until 2022.
According to UCLM, Stewart, a native of Newburgh, NY, had battled cancer from 2009 through 2012. The statement from the ministry said that at the time of that initial diagnosis, Stewart was told he had only a 20% chance of living after five years, and UCLM said that “fortunately, the Lord preserved his life for a much longer time.”
The ministry said that Stewart was cancer-free for many years, but had a recurrence this year.
UCLM said that Stewart actually considered himself a “liberationist” rather than an activist, using “action and words to eradicate social, economic and racial inequities.”
The statement from the ministry said that under his leadership, UCLM helped bring about a number of needed changes in policy and practice, including implementation of body-worn cameras by Rochester Police and later the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
In 2017, then-Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Rev. Stewart signed a Memorandum of Understanding creating the Community Justice Advisory Board, to monitor the way the body-worn cameras were being used and to make recommendations for ongoing policy improvements.
Stewart also participated in efforts to establish a Police Accountability Board.
Stewart’s biography noted that he opposed the call for “defunding” police agencies, saying that poor communities of color need police patrols and protection. Instead, UCLM said that Stewart strongly supported the reallocation of resources for improved training of police.
He retired in 2022 from UCLM, and Rev. Dwight Fowler took over as president of the organization.
Stewart was a guest on WXXI's Connection with Evan Dawson in November 2022, along with Fowler and other guests. You can listen to that program here.
Mayor Malik Evans said he was deeply saddened to learn of Stewart’s passing, saying in a statement that, “His commitment to the eradication of social, economic and racial inequities has made an everlasting impact.” Evans said that the city of Rochester “will be forever grateful for his exemplary actins and ministry.”
Services for Rev. Stewart will be held at First Church of God on Clarissa Street in Rochester under the direction of Bishop Dwight Fowler. Details are pending.