We were saddened to hear that Lonnie Hewitt Jr., FAIA, NOMA, had passed away on January 25, 2021 at the age of 75. He was the President and co-founder of Hewitt-Washington & Associates Architects and Planners (founded in 1978), a member of the AIA, NOMA, and The Collaborative – a group of small business owners who advocated for economic parity and equity for all local, small and disadvantaged businesses in New Orleans. More about Mr. Hewitt’s life and accomplishments can be found in the Times-Picayune Advocate and in New Orleans CityBusiness. Mr. Hewitt’s family asks that donations in his memory be made to NOMA Louisiana Project Pipeline. Ray Manning, FAIA, of Manning Architects, was kind enough to write a thoughtful personal remembrance of Mr. Hewitt’s life and legacy.
Notes on the passing of Lonnie Hewitt:
I first met Lonnie Hewitt when I was a Senior in High School. I attended a career day at Southern University and chose to visit the School of Architecture. Lonnie was one of the student leaders who volunteered to show a group of students around the school’s studio and talk about what a career in architecture might look like. I couldn’t see then how life would unfold: my career in architecture with Lonnie as a mentor and friend.
Lonnie graduated that year, returned to New Orleans, and went to work at Mathes Bergman Architects. He continued to inspire me; because, in the 1970s, it was no small feat for an African American to land a job at one of the city’s largest and oldest architectural firms. Lonnie’s career was filled with firsts.
His cool and deliberate demeanor were just a few of the character traits which made him a successful husband, father, businessman, and architect. I note this because from the time I met him and through the succeeding five decades, I admired and found inspiration in his approach to the practice of architecture and his ability to navigate the local business environment, which was not always welcoming or friendly.
Lonnie was more than a professional colleague—he was a mentor, employer, and confidant. I gained valuable experience working for Hewitt-Washington and Associates, and upon leaving, I started my own firm and often sought Lonnie’s advice. We shared strategy, as both our firms thrived and participated in several joint ventures together for projects such as the Dryades YMCA, the Convention Center Expansion, and the Aquarium of the Americas.
Lonnie and I both worked at Perkins and James Architects, another trailblazing African American architectural firm, at different times in our careers, and we participated in projects together. But one of the enduring connections we share is that we are alumni of the Southern University School of Architecture, where we first met, and where he extended his hand to another kid with dreams of becoming an architect.
It is with great sadness and a caring spirit for Lonnie’s family that I share these comments. The professional community, the State of Louisiana, and the City of New Orleans will miss his life force, energy, and his commitment to making the world a better place. He reached his hand out to me, and I am guided by that legacy to this day.
– Ray Manning