Cotesworth Lewis

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Cotesworth Pinckney Lewis (born June 9, 1913 in Birmingham; died September 29, 1999 in Williamsburg, Virginia) was an Episcopal priest and long-time rector of Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Lewis was one of five children. He grew up in Alabama and earned his bachelor's degree at Birmingham-Southern College, then went on to complete a masters and doctorate in divinity at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Lewis led congregations in Alabama and Arkansas before accepting the position of Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1945. In 1956 he was made Rector of Bruton Parish Church and remained there until his retirement in 1985.

Lewis provoked controversy when he directly addressed President Lyndon Johnson from the pulpit on November 12, 1967 to question the purpose and conduct of the Vietnam War and to lament the grip over the country held by fear of communism. He expressed hope that Washington would support a quick and decisive end to the conflict. After the service, Cotesworth accompanied Johnson to his limousine after the service. The church vestry and the Governor of Virginia both wrote to the White House to apologize for Lewis' remarks.

Cotesworth's church hosted President Ronald Reagan and other world leaders during the 1983 Group of Seven economic summit. His sermon for that occasion, drawn from the 46th Psalm, was uncontroversial.

Lewis was married to the former Louise Barclay and had one daughter, Lisa. He died in 1999.

Lewis' papers are archived at the Swem Library Special Collections at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.


  • Straszheim, Deborah (October 1, 1999) "A Man Of Opinion And Devotion." Daily Press

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