Bernard Lewis was born in Woodville, Florida in 1924 where his father was employed as a Range Rider for the state. During the tick eradication campaign, the family lived in Bronson, Inverness, Cambellton, Lake Wales and Lakeland. Mr. Bernard often tagged along on horseback, watching as the cattle were dipped and marked.
In 1936, he sold two billy goats and bought his first heifer. He has not been without ownership of cattle since. The family moved back to north Florida in 1937 and Mr. Bernard joined the United States Army in 1944. While home on leave for two weeks awaiting deployment to Europe, Germany surrendered to allied forces. Instead of deploying to Europe, he was sent to Japan and the Philippines.
Mr. Bernard was discharged from the Army in 1946 then went to work for the U.S. Postal Service. While employed by the Post Office, he maintained a herd of 100 cows and for a few years grew soybeans, corn and peanuts. He eagerly retired from the postal service on his 55th birthday as Superintendent of the Post Office in Quincy, Florida, to become a full time cattleman.
Mr. Bernard married Annette Downs in 1954 and they raised 3 children, Mike, Mitch, and Monica on their farm in Gadsden County. The Lewis family was named Gadsden County’s Outstanding Farm Family of 1976 by the North Florida Fair Association. Ms. Annette passed away in 1999.
Mr. Bernard’s three children were all active members of the 4-H Livestock Club. One son and daughter-in-law currently serve as club leaders. Four of his children have continued the 4-H legacy of showing cattle for three generations. His daughter chose a career as an Extension Agent as a result of her 4-H experiences.
Mr. Bernard has been a member of the West Florida Livestock Association for nearly 50 years. Started in 1944, this group has organized an annual steer and market swine show open to youth participants from any Florida county west of the Suwannee River. Mr. Bernard ensured that any youth who wanted to participate in the show had that opportunity, often providing show animals to kids who could not otherwise them. He has logged countless volunteer hours raising money, coordinating events, hauling animals and continues to be a driving force behind the show today. One of the highlights of the West Florida Livestock Show and Sale is the pig scramble. There have been many years that a pig scramble would not have taken place if Mr. Bernard had not seen to it that pigs were hauled in. He is also the one who takes leadership in getting sponsors for the sale. A critical role is to make sure cattle have been hauled to the slaughter house, as this is one role Mr. Bernard has done for quite a few years.
He served as 4-H Livestock Club leader for over four decades and transported countless kids and horses to 4-H Camp Timpoochee’s Horsemanship Schools. Even after hauling kids and horses to Timpoochee he has hosted fish fries for youth attending area 4-H Horsemanship Schools. In order to support youth and their fund raising efforts he has donated horses to be auctioned off.
A life skill that Mr. Bernard has taught many youth is responsibility and helped them to develop a strong work ethic. He has often stood back in his quiet demeanor and watched the youth do the jobs of feeding, watering, washing, and grooming their steers. The youth were shown how to saddle their horses and he would provide stools, etc. so that they could saddle for themselves. He is not the kind of leader or father who did the project for the kids, the kids did the work with his full support and encouragement.
His community involvement includes many years of service on the Soil and Water Conservation Board and Gadsden County Advisor Council. Mr. Bernard was presented with the Rotarian of the Year Award in 1998. Mr. Bernard’s story must also include that he is a member and deacon of Thomas Memorial Baptist Church in Quincy. With so much concern for youth, he was one of the first to give so the church could begin a full time childcare program.
Mr. Bernard served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Talquin Electric Cooperative for 37 years and much of that time, he served as Secretary/Treasurer. As in all of his community endeavors, he remains a staunch supporter and representative for farmers and ranchers.
Mr. Bernard is a founding member of Gadsden County Cattlemen’s Association who awarded him special recognition at their March 2011 meeting, presenting him with a mounted longhorn skull and plaque designating him “Range Boss” of their Association.
He is arguably the most under-paid day worker in the state. He has been on-call 24/7 for the past 30 years, along with his right hand man of 27 years, Walter “Junebug” Hicks. Junebug recalled a story in which he and Mr. Bernard were working cows for a rather prominent local cattleman. The cattleman remarked that he had a bull he thought he needed to sell. Junebug looked at Mr. Bernard and asked, “Mr. Bernard, ain’t that one of our bulls?” This tale is a testament to the fact that Mr. Bernard’s bull lease program was more of a bull replacement program. He tried to maintain around 75 bulls at any time. When asked how many leases went unpaid or bulls never returned, he just smiles and replies, “A lot.” He has cut back to about 10 bulls now, but there are several from his herd still scattered over North Florida.
The duo of Mr. Bernard and Junebug, have worked, doctored, castrated, vaccinated, roped, moved, hauled and sold cattle for nearly every producer in North Florida and South Georgia. He has helped many of producers break in to the cattle business, and dispersed the herds of many of his friends who have passed away. Much of his work has been done for little or no pay and never with a harsh word or raised voice.
Giving and doing for others will be his legacy. Everyone who knows Bernard Lewis considers him a friend.