Devoted and Gifted Music Teacher, Minister and Family Man
Rev. Murphy Albert Lewis was born in Algiers, New Orleans, Louisiana to James and Isabelle (Ashley) Lewis on November 14, 1947. His devoted grandmother, Clementine Bonds, helped raised him and his six siblings – four of which were two sets of twins, just thirteen months apart. With a firm foundation of faith, he came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ at an early age and was baptized at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church of New Orleans, LA.
Murphy amazed his family and teachers as they discovered early on that he had remarkable artistic gifts. He even won first place in an art competition among fifth graders while he was only in the first grade. As a teenager, Murphy attended L.B. Landry High School where he was a member of the band, playing the sousaphone. He was also a drum major, coordinating intricate formations and showing off quite a few fancy dance moves on the field. His sharp skills on the sousaphone earned him a full scholarship to attend Xavier University where he studied composition. Soon after finishing, he received another scholarship to attend New England Conservatory just two weeks before school was to commence.
It was around this time that he heard and accepted the call to preach the Gospel and became a licentiate minister at St. Paul AME Church in Cambridge, MA. He believed in non-violent, peaceful protesting, often leading the participants in song. He stood alongside the likes of Dick Gregory and others and even wrote a protest song for Gregory. He was a conscientious objector and won a long legal battle to resist the draft to the Vietnam War.
While working in Boston at the Warwick House and later, the Massachusetts Experimental School, Murphy met and married his devoted wife of 41 years, Delores (Shavers) Smith on January 2, 1976. They were an instant loving family of five with her three sons, Troy, Barry and Alan Smith. Years later, the family grew as they were blessed in 1984 with the birth of their only daughter Koriana (Lewis) Bradford - now a BPS music teacher - and son, Jonathan Lewis in 1987. Murphy instilled much of his talents and gifts into all of his children, teaching them how to sing and play various instruments.
With his deep love for educating young people, he co-founded the Henry Buckner School of St. Paul AME Church where he also taught. After several years of faithful servanthood at St. Paul, Murphy was ordained an itinerant elder in 1978. He was assigned to be the pastor of Bethel AME Church of Plymouth, MA in 1980.
While not giving up his passion for teaching, Mr. Lewis began a career in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) in 1975. Over his nearly 40-year span, he taught in several different schools at every educational level, from elementary general music to high school band. He received his school administration certification through UMass Boston and he received his Master’s Degree in Education from Cambridge College. His years of experience in both vocal and instrumental music, visual art, etc. presented him with an offer to become the Director of Music for BPS, which he accepted in 1999. During his tenure, he provided greater opportunities for arts expansion. In particular, he outlined an even more structured arts curriculum, increased student access to instruments, and broadened partnerships with arts organizations such as the VH1 Save the Music Foundation and others.
Murphy believed in community service, scholarship and brotherly love. With these ideals in mind, in 1992, he and his son, Barry became members of the Boston Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Later, he became a life member of the fraternity.
In 2002, Murphy and his family joined Charles St. AME Church where he was a deeply devoted and committed member of the Sacred Music Ensemble, often lending his rich, baritone voice to leading solos. He also served as a piano and music theory teacher in the Roxbury Renaissance Center Hamilton Garrett Music and Arts Academy, where he mentored many young budding musicians. Some of those students now attend or have graduated from Berklee College of Music and travel the world playing and teaching music professionally.
Not many people knew that throughout his life, Murphy painted beautiful, life-sized portraits. He exhibited his works of art on few occasions, one of which was at the Wellesley Congregational Church. On display were his portraits of prominent leaders such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglas, and arts educator and founder of the Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists (NCAAA), Elma Lewis (no relation). He also displayed his own self-portrait and portraits of his beloved family. Mr. Lewis taught at the Elma Lewis School of Performing Arts. For several years his portrait of Elma Lewis has been on loan to the NCAAA museum and can still be seen there to this day.
Murphy’s declining health prevented him from completing a major art project he frequently spoke of which would have featured a collection of portraits of numerous influential leaders. Murphy got the most enjoyment out of laughing and spending quality time with his family. In the early years, they enjoyed simple activities such as shooting pool, playing in the snow, going to live concerts, going out for ice cream, picking out pretty leaves, flying kites, blowing bubbles, reading and taking lots of pictures. He taught all 5 children how to ride bikes, how to make home and car repairs, and even let them use his car to learn how to drive. He was widely known at every family gathering for his famous potato salad, which included everything but the kitchen sink. The neighbors could always find him outside meticulously doing home improvement projects, which he occasionally did with his brother-in-law, Aaron Shavers Jr., and friend, Billy Pope, both whom he mentored. He and his wife enjoyed cracking jokes, watching mystery movies and the Word Network, talking about music and the latest news events - especially political, and the weather. There was absolutely nothing he wouldn’t do for his immediate and extended family. No matter how much it inconvenienced him, he would not complain.
Murphy is preceded in death by his parents, Rev. James and Isabelle Lewis and sister Isabelle Tyson. He leaves to mourn and celebrate his memory, his devoted wife, Delores (Shavers) Lewis, children, Troy Smith (Robin), Barry Smith, Alan Smith (Melanie), Koriana (Lewis) Bradford (Clint), and Jonathan Lewis; his siblings, Hilder Scott (William), James Lewis Jr., Lee Grace Brown, Idabelle Oden, his twin, Myrtle Lewis and brother-in-law Aaron Shavers Jr. He also leaves his grandchildren Oscar, Alexis, Alliyah, Alina, Jeremy, (great-grandson), Malachi, Ava, Benjamin, Victoria, Ethan and Damani (great-grandson). He will be sorely missed by a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and extended family members, colleagues, neighbors, and friends.
Visiting Hours: Viewing: Saturday, September 30th at 10 a.m. at The Historic Charles St. AME Church, 551 Warren St. Dorchester, MA 02121; Service: 11 a.m. immediately following the viewing