James B. Lewis
2021 Hall of Fame Inductee
Known in New Mexico and around the nation for his moral integrity and character, James B. Lewis came from humble beginnings. He began his professional career in 1970 as a U.S. Army military policeman.
In 1982, after hearing negative comments about local and state government, he decided to become part of the solution. Facing great odds, he was elected Bernalillo County Treasurer – the first African-American to be elected in the county. Excelling in this role, he was tapped by Gov. Tony Anaya in 1985 to become state treasurer after a scandal led to the removal of his predecessor. With fierce determination, he turned the agency back into one of honesty and integrity, passing 17 pieces of legislation in his first year to improve efficiency, accountability and transparency.
He moved on to be chief of staff for New Mexico Gov. Bruce King, utilizing his knowledge and expertise to enhance numerous city agencies and commissions, and he received a presidential appointment to serve as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.
In 2005, another scandal plagued the state treasurer’s office, and New Mexican’s once again looked to Lewis when they chose him as the first African-American statewide-elected official. He labored to transform the agency, collaborating with an oversight committee and the State Department of Finance, and engaging newspaper editorial boards and community stakeholders to restore faith in the system. After two successful terms, he gained the distinction of being the state’s longest-serving state treasurer.
A great believer in collaboration, Lewis was active in community and professional organizations. He served as president of both NASACT and NAST, and he has received numerous national and state awards recognizing his character and accomplishments.
Lewis contended with significant issues during his time of public service, but he gladly accepted the challenges because he knew he could make a difference. His legacy of honesty and integrity is still felt today as he continues to be a model for future generations.