JustLeadershipUSA mourns the passing of Lewis Conway Jr. (1970-2022), a member of the organization’s 2017 Leading with Conviction cohort. As an organizer, activist, and advocate in Texas, Conway led the legislative lobbying effort to protect the Austin Fair Chance Hiring ordinance. Over his lifetime, Lewis served on many successful campaigns: the repeal of the Austin juvenile curfew ordinance, delaying the new $97 million jail expansion, and also leading a prison closure campaign which contributed to the closing of three private correctional facilities and one public prison in 2017.
In 2016, Lewis was the Political Director of the Second Chance Democrats and helped pass the only Fair Chance Hiring ordinance in the South. He went on to lead the effort to protect the Austin ordinance from preemption in 2017 at the Texas State Legislature. In 2017, Lewis was nominated for the Austin Young Chamber Changemaker award and accepted into the highly competitive Living with Conviction leadership cohort of JustLeadershipUSA and Leadership Austin. In 2018, he became the first formerly incarcerated person in Texas to have their name on an electoral ballot when he ran for Austin City Council. This campaign ignited a spark that would continue to burn inside Lewis in pursuit of dismantling systemic oppression and improving the quality of freedom upon reentry for formerly incarcerated people.
Ultimately, this work brought him to the national offices of the ACLU, where he served in the political advocacy and communications departments. Lewis contributed to large-scale advocacy, legislative, electoral, and organizing campaigns which promoted the abolishment of mass incarceration. He was a passionate storyteller who shared his gifts through teaching, speaking, and hosting podcasts. Lewis was a prominent guest lecturer at local universities and regularly spoke on the topics of reentry, personal development, and social justice. His published and produced works will live on and serve to keep his memory alive, as will the story of his life—an inspiration for all those who fight for redemption and want to build ecosystems of resilience.
From JLUSA’s Executive Vice President, Ronald Simpson-Bey: “We at JustLeadershipUSA extend our deepest condolences and sincerest sympathies to the wife, family, and friends of Lewis Conway, Jr. Lewis has always been a trailblazer, as well as a mover and shaker in whatever field of work he was in, and being a graduate of our 2017 Leading with Conviction program was no exception. We hold Lewis in high regard, and we hold his wife, Nicole, and the family in our hearts during this time of bereavement.”