New Harding football field may get new name – CT Post




BRIDGEPORT — Despite chatter to the contrary the name of Warren G Harding is likely to move along with its high school when it relocates this fall a half a mile away to 379 Bond Street.

The name of the football field is another story.

The city school board on Monday will be asked to form a committee for the express purpose of renaming the field at the new school “Lewis Stadium” after the late John Lewis, a Harding alum who went on to become a legendary football coach at the East End high school.



Lewis was tragically murdered in 1989, shot by an unknown assailants at his East End condominium. No arrest was ever made.

His life is what most remember.

“I can’t think of a better person,” City Council member Ernest Newton told the school board’s facilities committee at a meeting this week of the possible naming. “John Lewis did not just touch athletes. He touched many lives. He was the type of person that you always knew where you stood.”

Maria Pereira, a school board member and Harding alum, recalled John Lewis as someone not to be messed with.

“He was well-respected. Not just athletes. All students,” Pereira, who graduated from Harding in 1985, toward the end of Lewis’ career as coach and history teacher.

The first African American head football coach in Fairfield County, Lewis excelled in multiple sports growing up. At 12, he was a star pitcher of the Bridgeport Little League team that reached the finals of the 1950 World Series in Williamsport.

At Harding, he played baseball, football and basketball, graduating in 1955. He spent a year on an athletic scholarship to Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, before joining the U.S. Marine Corp. He went on to complete his bachelor’s degree at Central State in Ohio and then attended a training camp with the Detroit Lions before being cut.

From 1961-72, Lewis played slow-pitch softball for several teams including Avco Lycoming, making it to the ASA National Industrial tournament three times. He also spent a decade umpiring slow-pitch games, earning a spot in the Connecticut Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame.

When he returned to Bridgeport, Lewis became an assistant coach at Bassick High school before embarking on a 21-year teaching and coaching career at Harding starting in 1968. He left with a 99-102-1 record and three MBIAC titles.

Several former players started an online petition in support of naming the field after Lewis, collecting 160 signatures. Some showed up at the school board’s facilities meeting.

Mark Perkins, a nephew and Harding alum, told board members he was a father figure.

“He sent so many people to college,” Perkins said. “This field needs to be named after him.”

Ted Walton, another Harding alum coached by Lewis, went on to become captain of the UConn football team and played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Because of John Lewis all of that was possible,” Walton told the committee. “Only two people I feel influenced me in my life: My father and John Lewis.”

Lewis’ son, Damon Lewis is now principal at Ponus Ridge Middle School in Norwalk.

The late coach is buried in Lakeview cemetery which sits adjacent to the large swath of acreage where the new school and field are located.

Under board policy before a school facilities can be named, the board must appoint a committee with community representation as well as teachers, parents and students. The board then picks from names recommended.

Board member Hernan Illingworth said he has no objection to naming the field after Lewis as long as board policy is followed.

“I am absolutely supportive of it,” Chris Taylor, chair of the facilities committee, said.

The current field is named after Ralph Hedges, Harding’s first principal.


lclambeck@ctpost.com; twitter/lclambeck


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