The legal community is in shock after Browne C. Lewis, the dean of North Carolina Central University (NCCU) School of Law, unexpectedly died in Colorado last Thursday while attending a conference with colleagues.
In addition to her deanship, Lewis was widely hailed as an accomplished legal scholar, attorney, author and mentor. The NCCU community is mourning the loss of Dean Lewis just a month shy of her 2nd anniversary with” the university.
While NCCU has not shared additional public details about the cause of death, Lewis was reportedly found dead in her Colorado hotel room.
Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye shared a message with the community after the fallen Eagle’s untimely death—”Dean Lewis immediately made an indelible impact on the School of Law. Her vision was clear from day one in leading the school as one that provides unique opportunities for diverse, talented future attorneys to be practice-ready practitioners in their chosen legal careers she accumulated numerous accomplishments for the university and School of Law in her short, nearly two years at its helm, he said.
Dean Lewis was an ardent advocate for social justice issues. In an interview before her death, published in Attorney at Law Magazine, Browne said, “My vision for the school is to elevate it to more of a national law school than a regional law school…The key value I want to imprint on the law school is overcoming the impossible through hard work, perseverance, and tenacity. It is important to overcome adversity and realize that you can accomplish any goal even if you do it in bite-sized pieces.”
Upon learning of Dean Lewis’ death, fellow dean Malik Edwards was devastated, stating, “I think there’s definitely a hole. But the good thing is, she had a vision, and she put that vision into place. And luckily, we have structures that allow those pieces to move forward…She wanted to be a dean here because she wanted to be at an HBCU. Unfortunately, there are (few) opportunities for first-generation students and for minority students to become lawyers…African Americans represent less than 5% of the bar and that’s something she wanted to change.”
NCCU is expected to release details about a memorial service for Dean Lewis in the upcoming days.