WWII Veteran Steve Lewis, One of the Last Living ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ Dies at 99

by Matthew Memrick
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World War II veteran Steve Lewis, one of the last living “Buffalo Soldiers,” died on Tuesday at age 99 in Bradenton, Florida.

According to The Associated Press, World War II veteran Steve Lewis was one of the last living members of the all-Black cavalry regiment. Manatee County NAACP chapter president Robert Powell said Lewis was in the hospital before his death. He did not know why Lewis died.

Powell said he used to love listening to Lewis’s stories. He called Lewis a “legend” and “a great guy.”

According to friend Henry Blyden, Lewis died one month short of his 100th birthday.

Lewis Started Army Tour 78 Years Ago

According to the Bradenton Herald newspaper, Lewis was a senior at an all-black high school in Florida during the Pearl Harbor bombing in 1941. 

A year later, he was taking classes at Florida A&M, but he stopped to serve in 1943, traveling to Texas for his Army service. 

There he served at the Ninth Cavalry Regiment at Fort Clark. The Bradenton Herald said Lewis “was told to corral and get a horse and issued a saddle, bridle, horse blankets, and stirrups.” The veteran also learned how to ride a horse and fire a .45 pistol from horseback during that time.

His unit found fame after the Civil War, patrolling the American Frontier. Reportedly, he was one of 33,000 Buffalo Soldiers and achieved the rank of corporal during his service.

The Army deactivated the regiment a year later and sent Lewis to the U.S. Army Transportation Corps in Casablanca, Morocco. There, he helped with war material supplies destined for the front lines in Italy, France, and Germany.

Lewis Made An Impact After Duty

After the war, the Florida native went back to Florida A&M and completed his college degree in agriculture. Soon after, Lewis taught for 30 years in the Palmetto, Florida, area.

In 2018, Lewis went with a friend on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. He visited the World War II Memorial for the first time during that trip. He served as the grand marshal for the DeSoto Grand Parade in Bradenton the following year.

According to the newspaper, Lewis is survived by a daughter, Jennifer Lewis.

“Many people ask me to what I attribute his long life? And I always say it was the women in his life,” Lewis told the Bradenton Herald. “He was always surrounded by caring, strong women — his mother, his aunts, his older sisters from his father’s first marriage. He had an older cousin, Annie Craddock, who took his hand and walked him to the first day of school, and his younger sisters from the union between his mother and father,” Lewis said.  

An Associated Press reporter could not reach anyone at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston to determine how many Buffalo Soldiers are still alive.

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