FELIX EARLY LEWIS, (1892-1968), SECOND CHIEF OVERSEER
Felix Early Lewis, the younger of two sons of David and Mary Lena (Street) Lewis, was born in Vanleer, Tennessee, January 22, 1892. His older brother was Walter Curtis. Vanleer, the hometown of the their maternal grandparents Belfield and Nancy (Bell, Hall) Street; and Dickson, the hometown of their paternal grandparents Columbus and Betty (Sisco) Lewis, are located in rural Dickson County, Tennessee. Located about three miles from Cumberland Furnace, and eight miles from the county seat, Charlotte, Vanleer was named for Anthony W. Vanleer, one of the early iron moguls of Tennessee.
Early in his life, Felix was chosen as co-laborer in the Gospel with his mother and his brother. Through them, God revived the doctrine of True Holiness and Sanctification. These laborers preached the beauty of holiness beginning at Steel Springs, Tennessee, and spreading from there throughout many states in the United States and into a number of foreign countries. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, God revealed the name of the church to young Felix as the true name for God’s people to wear: The Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth, and this truth was confirmed to the Founder in the Holy Bible in First Timothy 3:15.
The church was established in 1903 and held its first General Assembly in 1908 at Greenville, Alabama, under the auspices of Mary Lena Lewis and her two sons. Prior to 1903 (1898-1902), the group was called the “Do Rights.” Walter Curtis and Felix Early Lewis were ordained to the bishopric in 1914 at Quitman, Georgia and served as two of the first four State Bishops of the church. Bishop Lewis pioneered in establishing, building and organizing many church bands and temples throughout the country and also in sending missionaries to foreign countries for the church. He was appointed bishop of the State of Florida in 1914 and was instrumental in the phenomenal growth of that state during the Period of Rapid Growth and Expansion (1908-1918) of the early church.
Bishop Lewis, his mother, and others located and established the church general headquarters at 1915 Heiman Street, Nashville, Tennessee in 1923. In that same year at the headquarters, Felix founded and established the New and Living Way Publishing Company from which he composed and/or edited the church literature written by the Chief Overseer, Mary Lena Lewis Tate.
After the death of the Founder in 1930, Bishop Felix Early Lewis was selected by the Supreme Executive Council of the church as one of a Triumvirate of Overseers established to administer the affairs of the organization in 1931, a position that he held until his demise in 1968. Bishop Lewis was married three times during his life. His first marriage was to the former Estella Bonapart; the second was to the former Beatrice Giles; and his final marriage was to the former Helen Middleton. He is the father of fifteen surviving children.
Bishop Lewis is recognized as a true leader who demonstrated the power of the Holy Ghost through teaching, preaching, and healing. His organizational and business acumen impacted the church in every aspect of its growth and development. He was a respected senior bishop and Chief Overseer, a devoted parent to his family, and a true friend to his acquaintances. Bishop Felix Early Lewis passed away on September 13, 1968 at West Palm Beach, Florida and is buried, along with his mother and his daughter (Gladys), in a memorial gravesite in the historic Greenwood Cemetery at Nashville, Tennessee.
(Taken from: The Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth, Inc.: 85th Anniversary Yearbook, Nashville: The New and Living Publishing Company, 2003.)