Lifelong social justice advocate Rev. Lewis Stewart dies

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Rev. Lewis Stewart, revered president emeritus of United Christian Leadership Ministry, died at his home in Rochester on Friday after a long illness.

Rev. Stewart was a lifelong advocate of social justice and was the co-founder, president, and president emeritus of United Christian Leadership Ministry (UCLM). He used action and words to help eradicate social, economic, and racial inequities.

Rev. Stewart was born February 3, 1946, in Newburgh, New York. He was the son of the late Bishop Lewis W. Stewart, Sr., and the late Carrie Stultz Williams.

Lewis Stewart graduated from Brockport with a B.S. degree in Political Science, where he was later recognized as one of its most influential graduates. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hall/Crozer Theological Seminary. He also studied at Syracuse University School of Social Work. 

Rev. Stewart served as a Chaplain at the N.Y. State Department of Corrections at both Groveland Correctional and Five Points Correctional Facilities, where he served as pastor to inmates and advocate for prison reform.

Rev. Stewart co-founded UCLM in 2013, serving as its president from 2013 until 2022. In that role, he personally advocated for and supported several individuals mistreated by the justice system. Under his leadership, UCLM was a powerful voice for criminal justice reform. The organization helped to bring about a number of needed changes in policy and practice. Some of the most notable of these included:

·       Implementation of body-worn cameras by the Rochester Police Department and later by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. UCLM continues to work with both agencies to monitor and update these programs.

·       Initiation of annual police community summits in 2016, aimed at bringing law enforcement and the community together for honest dialogue, relationship-building, and mutual problem solving. These summits continue to the present day.

·       UCLM was an early driver of civilian review of police misconduct.

·       Helping to preserve threatened funding for OACES (Office of Adult and Career Education Services), an important adult education program that serves Monroe County.

·       Development of community programs to address gun violence and especially to support and educate those affected by gun violence, especially children.

·       Working cooperatively with the local court system to develop the Judicial Observation Project, training citizens to observe court proceedings and offer advice on addressing implicit bias and systemic racism.

·       Catalyzing the establishment of a Civilian Interview Panel in both Rochester and Brighton, where citizens can participate in the screening of candidates for the local police force.