Click here to login if you're an NAE Member
Recover Your Account Information
daVid S. leWiS, Jr.
elected in 1971
“For contributions to aerospace management in conception
daVid S. leWiS, Jr.
elected in 1971
“For contributions to aerospace management in conception,
development, and production of aircraft and spacecraft.”
By roBerT J. PaTToN
daVid S. leWiS, Jr., a major force in the nation’s aerospace
industry and former chief executive officer of General
Dynamics, died on December 15, 2003, at the age of 86.
david Sloan lewis, Jr., was born on July 6, 1917, in North
augusta, South carolina. His father, dick lewis, was an
executive with Standard oil of New Jersey and was transferred
to columbia, South carolina, in 1933. dave graduated from
columbia High School in 1934. after studying engineering at
the University of South carolina for three years, he transferred
to the georgia institute of Technology, where he received a
B.S. in aeronautical engineering in 1939.
after graduation he joined the glenn l. Martin company
in Baltimore and during World War ii worked on many
new aircraft designs in the aerodynamics department. There
dave met his wife, dorothy, who also worked at the Martin
company, and they were married on december 20, 1941.
in 1946, lewis joined the Mcdonnell aircraft corporation
in St. louis as chief of aerodynamics. There he worked on
the FH-2 Phantom, the U.S. Navy’s first jet aircraft, the F2H,
and the f-101 for the U.S. air force. Mcdonnell formed an
advanced design department with lewis as head. They
developed the Navy’s f-4 Phantom ii. Mcdonnell delivered
more that 5,000 f-4s to the U.S. Navy and U.S. air force and to
158 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES
the armed forces of several allied nations. in 1956, lewis was
promoted to vice president of Mcdonnell aircraft. He was
instrumental in the company winning the Mercury spacecraft
for the National aeronautics and Space administration. in
1962, Dave was named chief operating officer for all of the
as a part of the aerospace industry’s consolidation in
the early 1960s, Mcdonnell merged with douglas aircraft
corporation. lewis was named chairman of the douglas
division and was charged with turning the company around
regarding deliveries and its financial problems. With the
infusion of Mcdonnell’s money and lewis’s leadership and
attention to detail, Douglas become profitable again and Lewis
returned to St. louis. He continued to work on dc-10 sales
and was instrumental in winning the federal government’s
contract to develop the f-15 eagle.
Lewis became chairman and chief executive officer of
general dynamics in 1970 and had the corporate headquarters
moved to St. louis. By 1974 his leadership had made the
company profitable. The biggest opportunity for the aerospace
part was the competition for a new lightweight fighter. Dave
lewis took a very personal part to ensure a winning proposal:
He flew to Fort Worth (where the F-16 proposal was being
prepared) every Saturday to personally review the design,
structural details, proposed development plans, and pricing.
Their proposal was the winner, and general dynamics went
on to build several thousand f-16s.
during the Persian gulf War, general dynamics products
were very much in evidence. lewis was proud of the general
dynamics systems that were used by the U.S. military:
Tomahawk cruise missiles, f-16s, Phalanx ship defense gun
systems, and the M1 abrams main battle tank.
The submarine business at the electric Boat division then
took much of lewis’s time. The division obtained a contract
for many SSN 688 attack submarines. Then Lewis worked
hard to get the Trident ballistic missile submarine design and
construction (including the building of a large new land-level
assembly facility). He retired from General Dynamics in 1985.
daVid S. leWiS, Jr. 159
As a result of his work in the aerospace field, Lewis received
many honors, among them the robert collier Trophy for the
f-16 in 1975, the fleet admiral chester W. Nimitz award in
1981, the Daniel Guggenheim Medal in 1982, and the Wright
Brothers Memorial Trophy in 1984. He also received an
honorary doctor of sciences degree from clarkson college
of Technology in 1971 and an honorary doctor of law degree
from St. louis University in 1977.
lewis served as a director of ralston Purina in St. louis,
Bank of america in San francisco, cessna aircraft in Wichita,
and the Mead corporation in dayton, ohio. He was also a
trustee of Washington University in St. louis and the georgia
in addition to being a member of the National academy
of engineering (1971), lewis was a fellow of the american
institute of aeronautics and astronautics and a member of
the Board of Nominations for the aviation Hall of fame, the
National aeronautics association, the Navy league, and the
air force association. He was on the board of the aerospace
industry association and the american ordnance association.
Starting in mid-1986 he served on the National Academy of
engineering’s committee on aerospace defense.
dave lewis was an active and lifelong member of the
episcopal church. as a child he was an altar boy at grace
episcopal in charleston, South carolina. While he was in St.
louis, he continued to be active and served on the vestry and
as a senior warden at the church of St. James the apostle.
after retirement he returned to South carolina and was again
active at grace episcopal.
In 1982, anticipating retirement, Lewis began developing a
plantation near Albany, Georgia, which grew to 8,500 acres of
farmland and swampland. There he and dorothy built a home
and produced peanuts, pecans, corn, and quail. in 1996 they
sold the plantation and moved to charleston.
His daughter, Susan Winslow, wrote:
in his retirement era he continued his love for golf,
maintaining his affiliation with Augusta National,
160 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES
and also serving a term as President of the Highlands
country club in Highlands, North carolina, where
he and dorothy spent many summers. in 2000 he was
inducted into the South carolina Business Hall of fame
by then-governor Jim Hodges.
david lewis had the aura of a well-bred Southern
gentleman. despite all his wealth and skill with high
technology, he preferred to drive a ford falcon or dodge dart.
at the time of his death in 2003, Mr. lewis was survived by
his wife of 62 years, the former dorothy Sharpe; his daughter,
Susan Winslow (of Mt. Pleasant, South carolina); and his
three sons—david iii (of chevy chase, Maryland), robert (of
Marietta, georgia), and andrew (of gainesville, georgia).