Jan. 19--THOMASVILLE -- When Barack Obama is inaugurated Tuesday as the 44th president of the United States, Matthew Lewis will be sitting in his Thomasville living room in admiration.
"It's very difficult to put in words the pride I feel in having Barack Obama be the first African-American president," said Lewis, a former Washington Post photographer who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, "most particularly for him to come on board to be the most powerful man at a very critical juncture in this country as far as the economy and a war in Iraq."
Lewis, 78, photographed for President Richard Nixon's inauguration in 1973 and captured a picture of outgoing President Ronald Reagan departing the White House on President George H. W. Bush's inauguration day in 1989. Working at the newspaper for 25 years, Lewis was the first African-American to become the Washington Post's assistant managing editor of photography and the first photographer at the newspaper to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
To this day, Lewis still has his press pass from Nixon's 1973 inauguration. He recalls a cold day with people bundled up, smiling and waving.
"You are caught up in a sense of pride," he said. "Everybody is around you, and it's a feeling of a pride. You feel blessed that you are a citizen of this country."
During his successful career at the Washington Post, Lewis photographed Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon and Gerald Ford. He also photographed President John F. Kennedy's funeral, where he captured a picture of Jacqueline Kennedy in tears.
One of his fondest memories is taking pictures of Ford in the Oval Office.
In the middle of photographing Ford, the White House's personal photographer informed the president that Lewis had just won the Pulitzer Prize. He recalls Ford graciously shaking his hand and offering congratulations.
"Something happens to you when you have a president of the United States warmly congratulate you and let you work in the Oval Office like your not even there," Lewis said.
Not only does Lewis have a history of taking pictures of presidents, he photographed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Super Bowl VII and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.