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With the arrival of spring, the name “Judge Lewis” has again become associated with little league baseball and softball, swimming at the public pool, climbing on the playground equipment, pleasure walking, playing tennis or just spending time outdoors with family and friends.
But who was this “Judge Lewis”?
Charles J. Lewis was born January 13, 1877 on a farm north of Lenox.
His family relocated to Redding when Lewis was 11 years old and remained a life-long resident of Ringgold County.
(A young Lewis was the author of the “Redding Rustle” in 1900, a copy of which may be found in the Cornwall House museum in Ellston.)
After graduation from Drake Law School in 1905, Lewis began the practice of law, joining his father Clinton in his real estate business in Mount Ayr.
In 1912, Lewis and his brother Frank established the Lewis and Lewis Law Firm.
In 1944 Lewis was elected president of the Iowa Bar Association.
After 40 years in practice, Lewis was elected in 1945 as district court judge of Iowa’s Third Judicial District, a position he held for 20 years until his retirement in 1965.
Despite his long legal career, Judge C.J. Lewis is perhaps best known by modern county residents for his philanthropic efforts.
In 1962 he donated $10,000 toward the purchase of approximately 20 acres of land in the southwest corner of Mount Ayr from Mrs. S.C. Stanley for the construction of a public park and swimming pool that eventually carried his name.
(Adjusted for inflation, $10,000.00 in 1962 is equal to just under $84,000 in 2019.)
Seven years later he donated another $10,000 toward the establishment of a municipal airport that also now carries his name.
In addition, thousands of dollars in Judge Charles Lewis Scholarships are awarded each year to graduates of Mount Ayr Community High School
At age 95, Judge Lewis passed away January 2, 1973 at the Clearview Home in Mount Ayr, where he had kept a residence since 1963.
He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.
Now over 45 years after his death, the legacy of Judge Charles J. Lewis lives on today as vital to the fabric of Mount Ayr as it was during his long life.