Lewis Wesley Curtis, Sr., a veteran of World War II and the Korean War having served in the 24th Infantry Regiment, historically known as Buffalo Soldiers, died early Thursday morning (Jan. 23, 2020) at the Ben Atchley Tennessee State Veterans Home in Knoxville. He was 92.
He was born on April 14, 1927 in the Bryson community of Giles County to loving parents, Roy and Nora B. Curtis. He was the fourth of six children.
He gave his life to Christ as a young man in Nashville. He served as chairman of the Deacon Board at Mt. Pleasant Baptist in Athens, Tenn., and Mt. Zion Baptist here in Fayetteville. Lewis’s many friends and accomplishments bear witness to the fact that he was loyal, generous, reliable and helpful to all who knew him.
He attended Dellrose Colored School before attending Pearl High School in Nashville and entered the U.S. Army in 1945, where he served in the 24th Infantry Regiment, known as the Buffalo Soldiers. A WWII and Korean War veteran, Lewis served two tours before his honorable discharge. For his outstanding service, he received numerous awards and commendations, including the Combat Infantry Badge. In later years, he served as president of the 24th Infantry Combat Regiment Association.
After the military he received Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in industrial education from Tennessee State University in Nashville. While attending college, he was baptized at Mt. Zion Church in Nashville. He subsequently moved to Athens where he met and married his first wife of 37 years, Martha Curtis, and served his family and church faithfully. His life demonstrated his love of God, family and community.
He taught for 31 years at McMinn Central High School in Etowah where he was the first black teacher employed. Before his retirement in 1991, he served as supervisor and administrator for four years in the McMinn County School System. After the death of his first wife in 1993, Lewis married Zelda Mae Porter in 2001.
Over the years, Lewis also held numerous volunteer and appointed positions in addition to serving as the national president of the 24th Infantry Regimental Combat Team Association. Among those, he served as chairman of the McMinn County Planning Commission and Athens Utilities Board, president of the Hiwassee Mental Health Board, McMinn County NAACP, McMinn County Education Association, and McMinn Federal Credit Union. He also served as vice chair of the Woods Hospital Home Health Care Advisory Board, and president of the Riceville Ruritan Club and the Retired Teachers Association of Fayetteville.
He served as chaplain of the VFW Post 2167 here in Fayetteville and often spoke and offered prayer during Veterans Day ceremonies and other events.
Lewis was preceded in death by his first wife, Martha Lawrence Curtis, second wife, Zelda P. Curtis, parents Roy and Nora B. Curtis, brother, L.C. Curtis, and sisters, Lurla C. Reid, Louetta C. Murphy and Louise C. Hardiman.
He is survived by his daughter, Terri Cage (Al) of Knoxville, son, Wesley Curtis (Cynthia) of Winston Salem, NC, and biological grandchildren, Kristen Curtis of Phoenix, Ariz., Trey Curtis of Greensboro, NC, Michael Curtis of Havelock, NC, Colin Cage of Brooklyn, NY, Drew Cage of Boston, Mass., and Ethan Cage of Knoxville.
He is also survived by his brother, Leroy Curtis (Charlene), sisters-in-law, Roberta Lawrence, Gloria Arnwine, Marilyn (Thomas) Cates, Joyce Hunter, Bonnita Smith, brothers-in-law, Robert H. Arnwine and Herman Arnwine, and many stepchildren, step-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be conducted at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at Gallant-Riverview Funeral Home in Fayetteville. The family and friends viewing will be from 12 noon to 1 p.m. Memorials may be made to the Lewis Curtis Memorial Youth Fund, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Fayetteville, and sent in care of Terri Cage, 10115 Fox Cove Rd., Knoxville, TN 37922.