A fallen eagle: Dean Browne C. Lewis of NC Central Law School has died

Chancellor of Central North Carolina University announced on Friday the death of the dean of the university’s law school.

A university spokeswoman, Ayana Hernandez, did not disclose the cause of death.

Browne C. Lewis became dean of the NC Central University School of Law on July 1, 2020, weeks after the police killing of George Floyd, amid global protests and calls for racial justice.

She died suddenly Thursday while attending a conference in Colorado, school chancellor Johnson Akinleye said in a statement posted on the university’s website.

Akinleye, while noting that his announcement was accompanied by “profound sadness”, described Lewis as “a fallen eagle” and an “accomplished jurist, lawyer and author” who had an immediate impact on law school.

“His vision was clear from day one in leading the school as a school that provides unique opportunities for diverse and talented future lawyers to be practice-ready practitioners in their chosen legal careers,” Akinleye said in the statement. .

Akinleye noted that during his brief tenure as head of the law school which ended just under two years, Lewis “has racked up many accomplishments” for both the law school and the university at large. .

The Chancellor said Lewis was ‘laser focused’ on reaccrediting the law school with the American Bar Association (ABA), which was approved ‘in full compliance with ABA standards’ in November 2020 , only a few months after his appointment. .

“Equally important, enrollment has increased year over year at a time when other law schools have seen consistent declines,” Akinleye added.

Months before his death, Lewis said Floyd’s death in the knee of a Minneapolis police officer created a “political climate in the country when it comes to social justice.

“I think there was a reckoning where you had students of color, specifically wanting to go to law school with a commitment to diversity and social justice,” she told publisher Bob Friedman. of Attorney at Law Magazine (AALM), in March. “It’s our story. NCCU Law School was created to promote segregation, but when we were designed, the program we put in place was to increase diversity because we wanted to be one of the most diverse law schools in the country, which which resonated with many young people. .”

Lewis added that when NCCU law school officials talk to young people, “they want to go to places where they can really serve the public and increase access to justice and social justice in general, not just to the criminal justice system, examining fair housing, consumer protection, credit ratings and lending practices.

Additionally, in an increasingly conservative political climate that eschews diversity, Lewis has made it a cornerstone of the law school’s recruiting efforts.

“When you go out and recruit people, recruit diverse students and bring them into a situation, they have to feel included, but they also have to feel like they belong. As an HBCU law school, the myth is that we only educate African American students. That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Lewis said.

“We educate a diverse population of students. For this recruiting season, we need to consider diversity and inclusion broadly. For example, we created a Native American initiative to increase the number of Native American students. We are working with UNC in Pembroke and other schools serving Native Americans to increase this number.

In addition to above-average bar pass rates, Akinleye said that under Lewis’s leadership, the law school “received a number of gifts from corporations and foundations,” as well as “internships and scholarships.” of prestigious law… awarded to students”.

Akinleye pointed to a “transformational” $5 million contribution from Intel Corporation established the NCCU-Intel Tech Law and Policy Center, “the first for a historically black college and university,” which he said is “the only technology and legal policy center that focuses on technological disparities and social justice.

“Dean Lewis was extremely passionate about social justice and its intersection with the law,” Akinleye said.

During his interview with the AALM, Lewis told Friedman that his long-term vision for the law school was “to elevate it more to a national law school than a regional law school and to do with a focus on technology law and health law”.

Lewis explained that “with Apple moving a campus here, technology law will be even more important. We have a patent law clinic. We have a brand clinic. We have relationships with HBCUs that have engineering and computer science programs.

The lawyer and law school principal added that she likes to tell NCCU law students “we are preparing them for jobs that have yet to be created.

“So, for example, we offer courses in logistics, blockchain, and data analytics,” she told Friedman. “And my vision is not just to teach and expose our students to technology. But to ensure that we use technology to make the delivery of legal education more effective.

The NCCU’s fallen eagle also shared a bit of her personal story and how her lived experience shaped the values ​​she wanted to imprint on law school.

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

“I’m one of 12 children in a small-town, country-Louisiana family,” Lewis added. “I grew up knowing that you have to persevere, overcome adversity, and keep moving forward. Likewise, NCCU School of Law is one of six HBCU law schools in the country. We are the underdogs pushing toward the front.

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us ensure the viability of fearless surveillance reporting and coverage of essential arts and culture in the Triangle.

Follow Durham writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an e-mail to tmcdonald@indyweek.com.

Nancy I. Romero