Former DeKalb Superintendent Crawford Lewis dies at 68

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

Crawford Lewis, a former DeKalb superintendent embroiled in a racketeering scandal, died on Saturday. He was 68.

Lewis worked in DeKalb schools for 33 years. A district spokesman confirmed his death on Tuesday.

He was hired as a physical education teacher at Montgomery Elementary School in 1977. He later served as principal there, as well as Snapfinger Elementary, before moving to the district level. He was named superintendent in 2004.

In moving through the district’s ranks, Lewis was “determined to have a more impactful role in students’ lives,” interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley and the DeKalb County Board of Education said in an email to staff Tuesday.

“We honor Dr. Lewis’s life and contributions through his public education leadership and faithful service to DeKalb County and beyond,” the email stated.

Brad Bryant, who was a DeKalb school board member when Lewis was a principal, said he was “delightful” to work with at that level.

“He always had the students’ best interest at hand,” he said. “He came across to me always in that role as someone who was really trying to bridge the north and south divide within the county.”

During Lewis’ tenure as leader of the state’s third-largest school system, he oversaw the end of the district’s controversial uniform policy, spearheaded a systemwide redistricting effort, expanded school choice programs and navigated budget and staff cutbacks during the Great Recession.



In 2010, he was fired around the same time he was indicted in a corruption case involving taxpayer dollars for school construction. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in exchange for testifying against two others involved in the racketeering and theft of more than $1 million in school construction contracts. That charge was later dismissed under Georgia’s First Offender Act.

“Personally, I have good things to say about him,” said Don McChesney, who was one of the school board members who voted to fire Lewis. “Professionally, there were some questions.”

The misdeeds by top officials kicked off an “unpleasant chapter” in DeKalb’s history, as one former official put it, that included the near-loss of the district’s accreditation and the governor’s removal of six school board members over concerns of mismanagement. Since Lewis, the district has had three superintendents and four interim superintendents.

Lewis’ death was first reported by On Common Ground News.

A celebration of life service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Feb. 6, at Saint Philip AME Church in Atlanta. Masks will be required.