East Hampton Estate of Reginald Lewis

*L. Londell McMillan met Reginald F. Lewis when he was a law student and was awed by the first African American to build a billion-dollar company having led the largest leveraged buyout in the 1980s resulting in him shattering all expectations and inspiring future generations of African American entrepreneurs.

McMillan found a mentor in this first Black billionaire whose quiet grandeur, elegant charisma, powerful persona and subliminal swagger inspired him to graduate with purpose from law school.

So how ironic it was for this budding barrister to be the recipient of the distinguished Reginald L. Lewis “business award” that honors African American entrepreneurs who succeeded internationally in business before the age of 50, as he did.  Mr. Lewis succumbed to brain cancer in 1993.

Honoree L. Londell McMillan, Loida Nicolas Lewis, Peter Offerman, Phyllis Schless, Robert C. Winters, Jr.

To those in the entertainment industry, the honor was well-deserved as McMillan has been very successful having represented such icons as Prince, Michael Jackson, Usher, LL Cool J, Roberta Flack, Spike Lee and Stevie Wonder.

He is partner and co-head of the Media and Entertainment Global Industry Sector at the international law firm of Dewey and LeBoeuf.  McMillan is also one of the co-owners and partners with real-estate developer Bruce Ratner and hip-hop icon Jay-Z in the New Jersey Nets and the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, future home to the NBA team.  In addition, McMillan is group publisher of The NorthStar Group, which publishes Jones Magazine and The Source.

Honoree Tina Wells presented an award by Loida Nicolas Lewis

The hotshot attorney was honored at the third annual gala luncheon in East Hampton at a society-studded soiree hosted by the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation.  VIPs mixed and mingled on the beautiful lawn of Lewis’ indescribably beautiful Lily Pond lane beachfront estate in East Hampton before joining other guests seated under an enormous tent that was gorgeously decorated in orange paper lanterns and matching orange table settings with breathtaking centerpieces of like color.

Loida Nicolas Lewis with daughters Leslie Lewis & Christine Lewis Sword

During lunch, the beautiful people dined on broiled lobster, barbecued ribs and Long Island corn.  Moet & Chandon was the exclusive champagne served throughout the afternoon.  Guests also enjoyed a special drink called Belvedere Beach Cocktail made with Belvedere Vodka, Ginger Beer and Lime Juice.  Hennessey was also served.

In accepting his award McMillan said “He was a major trailblazer and was someone who was innovative and passionate, hardworking and just shrewd with a will that was just not going to be denied.  He not only wanted to succeed in business, he wanted to bridge the racial divides and he believed one of the ways to do that was to create partnerships that were profitable.”

Million dollar matching fund donors Sylvia & Eddie Brown from Baltimore, Maryland with Gayle King

Peter Offermann, Phyllis Schless and Robert C. Winters, Jr. were also acknowledged for key roles they played in the life and career of Lewis, with each receiving a Millennium Member award from Lewis’ beautiful wife Loida Nicolas Lewis.  Lewis’ mother Carolyn E. Fugett and two daughters Leslie Lewis and Christine Lewis Sword also participated in the illustrious program.

The afternoon affair was emceed by WCBS-TV news anchor Maurice DuBois and featured a flawless performance by R&B singer Deborah Cox who told me that she’s coming back to Broadway as Josephine Baker in the upcoming Broadway musical “Josephine” later this year.  The singer’s allure had guests on their feet from beginning to end.

Deborah Cox performs

More attention-grabbing entertainment was provided by Rosalyn Deshauteurs and Vernard J. Gillmore of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater who performed two dance excerpts from the legendary company’s repertoire to the roar of the crowd.

The third annual gala luncheon in East Hampton was sponsored by American Express, Bloomberg, BET Networks, McCall MacBain Foundation, Fanfeedr.com, Aladdin Capital LLC, Belvedere, Kate’s Paperie, The Camelot Group and GenNx360 Capital Partners.  Also J.P. Morgan, Ariel Investments LLC, The NorthStar Group and Prudential Financial.

This nonesuch event was The Hamptons at its very best.  Kudos to Sharon Y. Lopez of Purple Giraffe Productions who produced the stunning event with the assistance of public relations specialist Cheryl Duncan of Cheryl Duncan Public Relations.  Mrs. Lewis thanked them both for their remarkable work on behalf of the Foundation.

Honoree L. Londell McMillan and bust of his mentor Reginald f. Lewis

As the elegant evening came to a close, guests left with fabulous straw bags filled with lovely gifts including the paperback edition of “Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?  How Reginald Lewis Created a Billion Dollar Business Empire,” which was finished posthumously by Blair S. Walker.

Audrey J. Bernard

Beach Glamour, an ocean side benefit given by and for young professionals in their 20s and 30s followed the RFL luncheon gala.  Tina Wells, the 30-year-old founder of Buzz Marketing Group, a $5 million business that she started at 16, received the group’s first RFL Young Entrepreneurial Award.  The award is given to successful entrepreneurs under 40 who reflect the values, virtues, legacy and philanthropy of Reginald F. Lewis.

Music was performed by DJ M.O.S. and WCBS-TV news reporter Hazel Sanchez served as emcee.  Beach Glamour was sponsored by Belvedere, Pedestals Floral Decorators and Kate’s Paperie.

The Foundation was seeking to raise $350,000 to benefit the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture in Baltimore, the largest of its kind on the East Coast.  I’m happy to report that the proceeds from the event exceeded their expectation. (Photos by Audrey J. Bernard, Robert Delacruz, Douglas Harrington and Margot Jordan)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.