Thomas Lewis (activist)

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Tom Lewis
Born Thomas P. Lewis
(1940-03-17)March 17, 1940
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Died April 8, 2008(2008-04-08) (aged 68)
Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
Resting place Conscientious Objectors Cemetery
Sherborn, Massachusetts
Alma mater Mount Saint Joseph High School
Occupation Artist, activist
Known for The Catonsville Nine and other peace activism
Spouse(s) Andrea Borbely
Children Nora Lewis-Borbely[1]
Parent(s) John Albert Lewis
Pauline Lewis

Thomas P. Lewis (March 17, 1940 – April 4, 2008) was an artist and peace activist, primarily noted for his participation with the Baltimore Four and the Catonsville Nine.[2]


Lewis was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. In the late 60s, he was involved in such "actions" as the Baltimore Four, who poured blood on draft files at the Baltimore Customs House in 1967,[3][4] and Catonsville Nine, who "napalmed" draft files in Catonsville, Maryland.[5]

Lewis was active in the civil rights movement as a member of CORE and has close ties to the Catholic Worker Movement. He was a member of the Prince of Peace Plowshares, and was arrested many times over the years.

Lewis was a well-known artist throughout the Worcester area, and many of his pieces still survive in galleries and archives throughout the USA. He was an art teacher at Anna Maria College, and he taught printmaking at the Cambridge School of Weston, and Worcester Art Museum. Baltimore artist Earl Hofmann instructed Lewis in art during the 1960s.

Lewis was a memorable figure in the "radical Catholic" movement for his combination of art and activism; for example, Daniel Berrigan described his art as "…a poignant and powerful witness to the survival of the endangered conscience…. He heals the ancient split between ethics and imagination."[6]

The Baltimore Four[edit]

On October 27, 1967, the "Baltimore Four" (Lewis, Christian anarchist Philip Berrigan, and poet, teacher and writer David Eberhardt and United Church of Christ missionary and pastor, the Reverend James L. Mengel) poured blood (blood from several of the four, but additionally blood purchased from the Gay St. Market- according to the FBI- poultry blood- perhaps chicken or duck used by the Polish for soup) on Selective Service records in the Baltimore Customs House.[7] Mengel agreed to the action and donated blood, but decided not to actually pour blood; instead he distributed the paperback Good News for Modern Man (a version of the New Testament) to draft board workers, newsmen, and police. As they waited for the police to arrive and arrest them, the group passed out Bibles and calmly explained to draft board employees the reasons for their actions.[8]

PeaceChain 18[edit]

The day after the invasion of Iraq on March 21, 2003, Tom Lewis and 17 other activists using the PeaceChain blocked the Natick Chemical Weapons Research Laboratory and were arrested. Mr. Lewis spoke elequently before the Judge during the trial about the consequences of the invasion. He, along with the other members of PeaceChain 18, was convicted for illegal trespass and disturbing the peace. The direct action was organized by the Peace Abbey of Sherborn, MA.


He dearly loved his family, and they became a huge part of his life. He often said that his pride and glory was his daughter, Nora Lewis Borbely, and that she was by far his greatest accomplishment. Lewis died at age 68 in his sleep on April 4, 2008. A portion of Tom's cremated remains is buried at the Conscientious Objectors cemetery on the grounds of the Pacifist Memorial in Sherborn, MA.

See also[edit]


  • Berrigan, Daniel (1970). The Trial of the Catonsville Nine. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-0549-5.
  • Berrigan, Daniel (1983). 'Nightmare of God. Portland: Sunburst Press. ISBN 0-934648-08-5.
  • Lynd, Straughton; & Lynd, Alice (Eds.) (1995). Nonviolence in America: A Documentary History. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Arthur Jones (23 May 1997). "For 30 years: art, civil disobedience, jail - activist Tom Lewis-Borbely". National Catholic Reporter. 
  3. ^ United States v. Eberhardt, 417 F.2d 1009 (4th Cir. 1969)
  4. ^ Melville v. State, 268 A.2d 497, 10 Md. App. 118 (Ct. Spec. App. 1970)
  5. ^ United States v. Eberhardt, 417 F.2d 1009 (4th Cir. 1969)
  6. ^ Scott Schaeffer-Duffy. "Tom Lewis-An Artist-Activist". Archive for the ‘Nonviolent Resisters’ Category. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  7. ^ William Strabala; Michael Palecek (2002). Prophets without honor: a requiem for moral patriotism. Algora Publishing. pp. 57–61. 
  8. ^ Joe Tropea (14 May 2008). "Hit and Stay: The Catonsville Nine and Baltimore Four Actions Revisited". City Paper. Archived from the original on 10 July 2014. 

External links[edit]