NC Central University mourns sudden death of law school dean

The Central University of North Carolina community mourns the sudden death of Law School Dean Browne C. Lewis.

Lewis, an accomplished jurist, attorney and author, died unexpectedly Thursday while attending a conference in Colorado with fellow NCCU Chancellor Johnson Akinleye. announced Friday morning.

The university did not share further details about the cause of death.

Lewis joined NCCU in 2020 and “immediately made an indelible impact” on the school and its diverse and talented future attorneys, Akinleye said.

Under Lewis’s leadership, NCCU achieved reaccreditation with the American Bar Association in November 2020. Enrollment at the school has increased each year, bar pass rates have been above average, and students have earned prestigious law internships and fellowships with her at the helm.

“Extremely passionate about social justice”

Lewis was also instrumental in securing a number of corporate and foundation donations, including a $5 million contribution from Intel Corporation which established the NCCU-Intel Tech Law and Policy Center. The center is the first of its kind at an HBCU and the only technology and legal policy center that focuses on technological disparities and social justice, according to the university.

Akinleye said Lewis was “extremely passionate about social justice and its intersection with the law”, and shared with her an excerpt from an interview published by Lawyer at Law magazine in March 2022.

“The key value I want to imprint on law school is overcoming the impossible through hard work, perseverance, and tenacity. It’s important to overcome adversity and realize that you can achieve any goal, even if you do it in small pieces,” Lewis said.

“I am one of 12 children in a family in a small country town in Louisiana. I grew up knowing that you have to persevere, overcome adversity and keep moving forward,” she said. “Similarly, NCCU School of Law is one of six HBCU law schools nationwide. We are the outsiders pushing forward.

The university is coordinating a memorial with Lewis’s family to celebrate his life and contributions to the NCCU. He will announce more details when scheduled.

This story was originally published June 3, 2022 12:33 p.m.

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Kate Murphy covers higher education for The News & Observer. Previously, she covered higher education for the Cincinnati Enquirer in the Investigative and Corporate Team and USA Today Network. Her work has won state awards in Ohio and Kentucky and she was recently named the Education Writers Association’s 2019 Finalist for Digital Storytelling.
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Jon J. Epps