Edgar James “E.J.” Lewis, 93, of Ruston, Louisiana, was born June 6, 1928, in Sulphur, Louisiana, and passed away August 15, 2021. “Coach” and the late Patsy Brister Lewis were married for more than 50 years. They have two sons, Luke, wife Donna and children Logan, Keegan and Albany, and Jedd, wife Melanie, and sons Jake, Austin and Morgan. Coach and Patsy were also blessed with five great-grandchildren. He is survived by his sister, Morris Ann Hunter, a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and a multitude of friends.
Visitation will be Thursday, August 19, at the Luffey Catholic Life Center of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 813 Carey Avenue in Ruston beginning at noon. A celebration of his life will follow at 2 p.m. at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. A graveside service, approximately 3:30 p.m., will be at Forest Lawn Cemetery, 2500 West California Avenue, (Hwy. 80), in Ruston.
The service will be streamed live on FaceBook (www.facebook.com/stthomasruston).
Athletics were the largest part of Coach Lewis’s professional life. Even Mrs. Patsy called him “Coach.” He knew everyone and everyone knew him. It was in athletics that he made his biggest contributions, and it was through athletics that he made his closest friends and was able to help the most people.
An outstanding prep player in his hometown of Sulphur and then at McNeese State, he was later All-Air Force while a quarterback in the military from 1951-53 and helped his team win the military’s East Coast Championship. But it was after his playing days, while recruiting and coaching football, that he really hit his stride.
Coach Lewis either coached or recruited more than three-dozen all-conference players, 14 professional players and six all-Americans.
He began his coaching career in his hometown in 1954 and coached there until 1959, when he became Louisiana Tech’s first graduate assistant. From 1960-63 he was a highly successful head coach at Jonesboro-Hodge High. He came back to Tech to finish his master’s degree in 1964 and became an assistant coach under a pair of Tech legends, football coach Joe Aillet and track coach Jim Mize, and later under another Tech legend football coach, Maxie Lambright. His coaching career at Tech continued until 1981.
Coach’s recruiting style was some piano playing for the parents, a few jokes, honesty, and a promise to help develop both sides of the student-athlete. He promised fun and hard work and loyalty and championships, and he always delivered. He was also famous for promising his players “an apple and a road map” for a trip home when they didn’t play up to their potential. With his inspiration, they usually did, as evidenced by the record Coach compiled. His career spanned a couple of eras at Louisiana Tech, including the Bulldogs’ 44-4 run of the early 1970s that included a pair of small college national championships.
His coaching career ended, but his relationships with players did not. Often Coach was the middle man in lining up successful jobs and careers for his players and coaching them to perform the same professionally as they did athletically.
His family will tell you that the coach and the dad and the husband were one in the same. He loved hunting and fishing with his boys, telling stories, putting in the time and effort to be successful and encouraging his sons to do the same. “Be good and take care of your business.” He did.
Coach was preceded in death by his wife, Patsy; his mother, Amelia Lyons, and her husband, Mack; his father, DeWitt Lewis; and his sister, Dorothy Garrison.
Pallbearers will be Lyn Bankston, Winford Wilborn, David Adams, Mike Barber, Ken Lantrip, Greg O’Quin, Richard Vail, and Bobby Savoie. There are 40 honorary pallbearers — and could be 400 or more, since Coach was blessed with so many friends. Honorary Pallbearers are Hudson Akin, John Allen, Jan and John Albritton, Larry Anderson, Billy Belding, Jack Bird, Doug Boulware, Dr. Billy Bundrick, Charlie Bourgeois, Alan Carpenter, Ronnie Carson, Pat Collins, Joe Comeaux, Randy Crouch, James Davison, Ronnie and Paula Dowling, Hollis Downs, Randy Ewing, Terry Ewing, Bob French, Larry Gideon, Ed Jackson, Jackie James, Lavon James, Joe Mac Johnson, Jim Jones, Kitt Lee, Danny Majors, Johnny Maxwell, Danny Norris, Wayne Parker, Joe Raymond Peace, Danny Prince, Glen Pumpelly, Joe Reeves, Ted Sanderlin, Skippy Shirley, Mickey Slaughter, Ricky Stubbs, Mike Sweeney, Earl Thaxton, Tommy Thompson, Larry Wilkins and Larry Wright.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, to Louisiana Tech University, or to the charity of your choice.
Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.kilpatrickfuneralhomes.com.