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Local, state politician R.H. Lewis dies at age 90

Lewis in 1962
Lewis in 1962

R.H. “Bob” Lewis, a Spokane city councilman and high-ranking Republican state senator who declined urgings from others to run for higher office, died Friday in Spokane.

Lewis was 90 and died in his sleep at Royal Park Care Center, said his son, Jack Lewis.

“He was a family man,” said Jack Lewis, adding that he put a priority on spending quality time with each of his kids and grandchildren. “He made sure he took every grandkid on a trip for a week.”

After working for a time in Chicago, Lewis returned to Spokane with his family and took a job at Lincoln First Federal Savings & Loan as public relations director. He was elected to the Spokane City Council for an unusual 5 1/2-year term in 1964 and opted against running for re-election in 1969.

On the council, he worked to streamline government and founded the “Little Hoover Commission,” to examine the way the city did business.

He was elected to the state Senate in 1972 and won a second term in 1976. In the Legislature, he served as minority whip and was part of a three-person Republican leadership team that took control of the minority caucus in the last week of the 1979 legislative session in what some labeled “a coup.” He promised “more complete involvement of all members of the caucus.”

He had a conservative voting record, and had a perfect rating from Moral Majority of Washington when he left office.

Lewis graduated from Coeur d’Alene High School, and while representing the school was the North Idaho light-heavyweight boxing champion. He volunteered to serve in World War II and was wounded in the fight to rescue American troops surrounded in Bastogne, Belgium. He spent “much of 1945” at a hospital in Britain, according to the Spokane Daily Chronicle.

After the war, he graduated from the University of Missouri.

In the summer of 1977 while serving in the Senate, Lewis resisted overtures from business leaders urging him to run for mayor. In March 1978, he was rumored to be considering a run for Congress against Tom Foley.

The morning’s Spokesman-Review on March 30 declared that Lewis “will seek Foley’s job.” But the afternoon Spokane Daily Chronicle’s headline said he was “not running.”

Lewis said his wife was not excited about higher office.

“We could not enjoy the same close relationship we have experienced for nearly 29 years,” he told reporters, according to the Chronicle. “I do not wish to lose that relationship, so we will continue our public service effort in the State of Washington, with enthusiasm as long as our constituents approve.”

Two years later, he lost re-election. He was appointed the supervisor of the Washington State Division of Savings and Loans in 1981. He moved to Olympia and lived there until moving back to Spokane about a year ago.

Lewis’ first wife, Peggye Lewis, died in 1986. His second wife, Joanne Evans Lewis, also preceded him in death. He is survived by his third wife, Nathalie Lewis, and three children: Mark Lewis, who manages juvenile detention for Spokane County; Cheri Folk, who works for Goodwill in Portland; and Jack Lewis, campus dean at Moody Bible Institute in Spokane.

 

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