Celebrating his 60th birthday in London, A.J. “Jack” Lewis saw six smiling faces he didn’t expect to see.
The moment in 1992 marked an epiphany for a man who already was a successful attorney and chairman at San Antonio’s Jefferson Bank. It got him thinking about family and what he would eventually leave behind. His son, Jack Lewis III, reflected on that trip in a recent eulogy of his father, who died Aug. 3. He was 86.
Lewis began a tradition of paying for a large family vacation every year since his wife, Peggy, surprised him that first time by bringing his three grown children and their spouses across the pond to see him. In recent years, that meant 20 plane tickets and maybe a dozen hotel rooms or more because grandkids and their spouses came along.
And these trips weren’t just down to the Texas Coast. Lewis took his family to Africa, Fiji, Europe, Russia, China, and other far-flung locations in what he saw as an act of love for the generations of his family that would build on what he and his father, A.J. Lewis Sr., started.
“That was his gift to us every year. That was what mattered to him,” his son, Jack Lewis III said. “He wanted the kids to see the world. He wanted each of the cousins to be as close as brothers and sisters are.
“It really became his favorite thing in the world. He loved to have the family together and he believed that was a way to hold it all together long after he was gone.”
Lewis was just 14 and on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout when he opened the first savings account in Jefferson Bank’s history on its first day in operation Aug. 12, 1946. The bank’s first location was at 1904 Fredericksburg Road. His father was the chairman of the board at the time. He couldn’t have known then that he would later follow in his dad’s footsteps, serving as chairman for three decades.
The bank began with an initial investment of $125,000 by a group of San Antonio businessmen. According to the bank’s website, it has current assets of approximately $1.75 billion, with much of that growth happening under Lewis’ watch.
“He always used to say, ‘Bigger is not better. Let’s not try to be all things to all people. Let’s just do what we can do really well,’” Jack Lewis III said. “And that’s kind of how he grew it.”
Fourteen turned out to be a significant age for Lewis. It was when he met Peggy at a local dance studio. Seven years later they were married and remained so for 63 years until her passing last year.
Lewis earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1954. He earned his law degree from St. Mary’s University in 1957. He did so attending night school while serving in the U.S. Air Force during the day for two years. He went on to earn a Master of Law degree from New York University in 1963.
Lewis first made a name for himself practicing law in San Antonio. His law career stretched over 36 years. He moved into the chairman role at Jefferson Bank only after his father’s retirement.
He also served as chairman for the Sam Houston District of the Boy Scouts of America, raising his sons to become Eagle Scouts as well. He also served as chairman emeritus for KLRN-TV.
Lewis was notable for being a member of the only family to have produced a trio of Texas Cavaliers, each of whom served as King Antonio. Lewis was crowned king in 1976. His father was king in 1949, and Jack Lewis III was king in 1995.
Lewis was an integral part of establishing the charitable arm of the Texas Cavaliers when the foundation was created in 1989.
“It’s now such a big part of the Cavaliers’ purpose and organization, and he was always very proud of that,” Jack Lewis III said.