Marvin E. Lewis Sr. Trailblazer Award

Please click on the following link for the Nomination form for the GSSA Marvin E. Lewis Sr. Trailblazer Award. Deadline for submissions is March 8th, 2024.

Description of the purpose of the award:

To recognize a minority or underrepresented superintendent who served as a minority or underrepresented superintendent in a school district in the State of Georgia. One who broke through a barrier of a lack of diversity and/or equity in a school district in Georgia. One who provided experiences and perspectives which increased the productivity of all students through a diverse perspective. One who served all children from all races, creeds, religions in Georgia. One who demonstrates the ability to teach, mentor, guide, and facilitate staff in the local school districts. One who provides advocacy for and leads in the process of equitable and equal education for all students. One who advocates for public education and supports leadership development in our profession.


A TRAILBLAZER nominating form will be sent to all superintendents, board chairs, and RESA Directors annually for consideration.  Completed nominations should be emailed to GSSA Executive Director John Zauner ( Once all nominations have been received by the designated due date, the Trailblazer Awards Committee will select a winner and the award will be presented at the GSSA Spring Bootstrap Conference annually.

Additional Eligibility: Currently serves as a Georgia superintendent or has served as a Georgia public school superintendent. Has served for at least 3 or more years currently or less than 3 if retired.  Must be a retired member or past member of the Georgia School Superintendents Association as permitted.

Award In Honor of Marvin E. Lewis Sr.:
The first black Superintendent in the State of Georgia was Mr. Marvin E. Lewis Sr. of Hancock County Schools (January 1, 1972-Elected).

Before 1973, no Georgia county had a black superintendent of schools. Marvin E. Lewis, Sr. won the election of 1972 and in January of 1973 he became not only the first black superintendent of schools of Hancock County Schools, but the first black superintendent of schools in the state of Georgia. 

Marvin E. Lewis, Sr. was a synonym for education in Sparta, a little rural town in Hancock County, where he served as a teacher, principal, and superintendent in the same school system in which he grew up and went to school in the late 1930s and early 1940s before serving time in the U.S. Army. Born on October 23, 1924, to the parentage of Floyd Lewis and Lela Lewis, Marvin shared a household with a dozen siblings, 10 of which were boys. His diligence as a student in Springfield A&I School established him as an exceptionally bright student, moving through the grades with excellence until graduation as the valedictorian of his class. He furthered his education at Savannah State College. Lewis maintained his spot at the top of the class in all courses even though he worked two jobs to defray the cost of tuition, room, and board. Though his dream was to become a physician, he had no funds to enroll in medical school, and therefore, he completed a Bachelor of Science in agriculture before being drafted to the U.S. Army. Serving in the U.S. Army did not deter his dream of continuing his education. His commitment to inspiring the lives of men and women in Hancock County began with the establishment of classes for veterans that he taught in their homes. During the summers, Lewis left the local area and went north to advance his education. He completed courses in educational leadership and school administration at Temple University and Ohio State University, where he earned a Master of Science Degree in Educational administration. With the preparation he gained in graduate school, Lewis focused his attention on another dream in his heart, which was improving schooling for African American children in the Hancock County School System.

Lewis took a stand in the classroom, dedicating long hours, with little pay, to teaching the skills of reading, writing, arithmetic, and training boys and girls in socially acceptable conduct. When the Georgia Department of Education consolidated schools, Lewis was appointed as the principal of L.S. Ingram School. In 1959, the new Hancock County Training School became the focus of the consolidation initiative, with most of the students in the county transferring to the new facility under Lewis’ leadership as principal. It was a difficult time for Lewis as principal because of a limited number of certified teachers, insufficient textbooks and limited supplies, and overcrowded classrooms. With segregated schools being a way of life in Georgia, Lewis received leftover books and supplies for his school after the principal of Sparta High School for white children was supplied. Though desegregation of schools became law in 1954 with the federal ruling in Brown v.
Board of Education, the schools in Hancock remained segregated through the mid-1950s. It was a difficult time for children because the board of education, which included five white landowners, closed school in September so that black children could be available to pick cotton. Lewis said, “It was difficult for teachers to teach, but it was also difficult to convince poor black children that they could be anything they wanted to be”.

During the November election of 1972, amidst much racial tension in Hancock County, Marvin Lewis defeated the white superintendent. He served in this position until he retired in 1995. During his tenure, he was responsible for the construction of two new schools, M. E. Lewis, Sr. Elementary and Hancock Central High School. He devoted his life to the education of Black children of Hancock County and did whatever he could to create better lives for the black people in the county that he loved.

Marvin E. Lewis, Sr. passed on Nov. 20, 2002 at 78 years of age. He was married to the late Lillie Skrine Lewis for 51 years. They had four children together.

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