LEWIS’ LIFE JOURNEY
LEWIS “Dooney” CONWAY, JR. was born in Abilene, Texas in 1970 year to Lewis Conway and Dorothy Faye, of Calvert, Texas. The youngest of three children, Lewis attended grade school at Maplewood and Andrews Elementary schools on the East Side of Austin, Texas. He attended Pearce Junior High, where he discovered his love for music and sports, and John H. Reagan High School. At 17, during his junior year of high school, he dropped out and enrolled at Huston-Tillotson College where he received an associate's degree.
His parents, who were college-educated civil rights activists with a strong moral inclination towards social justice, endowed Lewis with an abiding faith and an entrepreneurial spirit. His father, Lewis Conway, Sr., was a pastor in St. John’s and in several A.M.E. churches in District 1. Together, his parents owned a number of businesses on the East Side of Austin.
As an organizer, activist, and advocate, Lewis led the legislative lobbying effort to protect the Austin Fair Chance Hiring ordinance. Over his lifetime, Lewis served on many successful campaigns: the repeal of the Austin juvenile curfew ordinance, delaying the new $97 million jail expansion, and also leading a prison closure campaign which contributed to the closing of three private correctional facilities and one public prison in 2017. In 2016, Lewis was the Political Director of the Second Chance Democrats and helped pass the only Fair Chance Hiring ordinance in the South. He went on to lead the effort to protect the Austin ordinance from preemption in 2017 at the Texas State Legislature. In 2017, Lewis was nominated for the Austin Young Chamber Changemaker award and accepted into the highly competitive leadership cohort of JustLeadership USA and Leadership Austin. In 2018, he became the first formerly incarcerated person in Texas to have their name on an electoral ballot when he ran for Austin City Council. This campaign ignited a spark that would continue to burn inside Lewis in pursuit of dismantling systemic oppression and improving the quality of freedom upon reentry for formerly incarcerated people.
Ultimately, this work brought him to the national offices of the ACLU, where he served in the political advocacy and communications departments. Lewis contributed to large-scale advocacy, legislative, electoral, and organizing campaigns which promoted the abolishment of mass incarceration. He was a passionate storyteller who shared his gifts through teaching, speaking, and hosting podcasts. Lewis was a prominent guest lecturer at local universities and regularly spoke on the topics of reentry, personal development, and social justice. His published and produced works will live on and serve to keep his memory alive, as will the story of his life — an inspiration for all those who fight for redemption and want to build ecosystems of resilience.
Lewis is survived by the love of his life, Nicole, whom he met on the online dating service Tagged in March 2015. As Lewis and Nicole got to know one another on the phone, they realized that they had so many things in common. Although they attended rival schools, they were destined to be united as husband and wife and partners in their life’s work. Together with his criminal justice background and her mental health background, they founded Equally Yoked, a marketing consultancy. Nicole and Lewis not only shared a head for business, they also shared the love of ministry, especially to those who are still incarcerated. They spoke on behalf of the voiceless and those who are seeking reform. They eloped on July 4, 2016 on the beach — which symbolized solace and peace for them both — in Port Aransas, Texas. Their social media presence continued to inspire others on relationships, marriage, the criminal justice fight, and mental illness. Nicole will continue to carry Lewis’ torch in the years to come.
Lewis is preceded in death by his parents, Lewis and Dorothy Conway. He leaves to celebrate and cherish his life: loving wife Nicole R. Conway (New Jersey); sisters Sherry Walker, Rosalind Conway, (New Jersey) & Susan Henry (Austin); daughters Loren Cunningham (Austin), Kayla Cunningham (Austin), Brielle Conway (New York), and Brooklyn Conway (Round Rock); sons Brannon Conway (New York) and Braylon Conway (Ft. Worth); granddaughters Triniti, Titan, and Taj Rae Bishop. He also leaves multiple sister-friends, bonus brothers, and a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and wonderful friends.
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