PLATTSBURGH - Clyde A. Lewis, the man known as "The Father of Plattsburgh Air Force Base," has died at the age of 95.
Lewis passed away Feb. 4 at CVPH Medical Center after a brief stay.
Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Bernard C. Bassett is among those who mourns the loss of the community leader. Bassett joined past Town Supervisor Arthur L. LeFevre and Town Attorney James J. Coffey last June in recognizing Lewis on his 95th birthday. The four spent an afternoon reminiscing about the many changes seen in the town over the years, many of which Lewis was credited for making happen.
"Clyde was certainly respected for his views and opinions and also for his relationships and associations he had," said Bassett.
Though he was known in his later years for his role as the town's attorney for more than three decades, Lewis' history with the area began much earlier than that. The Harvard Law School graduate founded the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base Liaison Committee which led to the establishment of the base more than 50 years ago. Lewis' passion for helping establish the base was said to have stemmed from his own service to his country in World War II as a major in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
When interviewed last June, Lewis recalled being approached by Gen. Curtis E. LeMay in 1951, regarding establishing a military base on the site of the former Plattsburgh Barracks, then occupied by Champlain College.
"When Gen. LeMay came to me and wanted to bring the base here, we went to work on it," Lewis said during the interview. "Little did I realize, how things would unfold over the years."
The time and effort Lewis invested as head of the Plattsburgh Air Force Base Liaison Committee paid off, and on Jan. 29, 1954, ground-breaking ceremonies for the base were held, beginning the area's 41-year chapter in American aviation history. "Clyde really helped as a result of what he did to put the word Plattsburgh on the lips of many, many people and you just can't replace that kind of quality and dedication," said Bassett. "I have always been a real proponent of municipal employees, elected officials getting outside their municipalities to represent their constituency and Clyde did that for us to the extreme in Washington and certainly with the military."
"He certainly had a long and honorable life and his achievements speak well for his efforts and his love of his community," Bassett added. "The town of Plattsburgh holds a special place in its history for all he did."
In addition to a commendation from Gov. David A. Paterson presented to him on his 95th birthday, Lewis has received recognition in the past for his efforts. Clyde A. Lewis Park, located on the south side of the city at the corner of New York Road and U.S. Avenue, was also named in his honor. The scenic park is home to two monuments that recognize the history of the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base.
Lewis is survived by his wife, Patricia, and his two sons, the Rev. Clyde A. Lewis, pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Rouses Point, and John E. Lewis, a retired teacher of Wappingers Falls, as well as his brother, Paul Lewis of Oregon. He is also survived by several grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.