Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Towanda, Bradford County
Lewis wrote Iron and Steel in America; industry is a common topic for many of Lewis' books.
Technology and aviation scholar Walter David Lewis was born in Towanda in 1931, growing up in Bellefonte. Educated at Juniata College, Penn State University, and Cornell University, he has become a widely respected expert on the aviation industry and the impact of technology on various part of the American South. He teaches at Auburn University.
Scholar W. David Lewis was born in Towanda, Pennsylvania, on June 24, 1931. He was the son of Gordon and Eleanor Lewis and grew up in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Following high school, he matriculated at Huntingdon's Juniata College in 1948 before transferring to the Pennsylvania State University, where he earned his B.A. and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1952. He would also earn an M.A. at Penn State in 1954. That same year he married Carolyn Brown; the couple would have three children before divorcing in 1980. He began his teaching career after graduation, taking a position as an instructor of public speaking at Hamilton College.
Lewis returned for his doctorate in American social and intellectual history at Cornell University, earning that degree in 1961. He joined the faculty of the University of Delaware as an instructor that year. He was also fellowship co-ordinator for the Hagley Foundation (connected to the du Pont Family of Delaware) through 1965. After a stint at the State University of New York, Buffalo, Lewis was appointed the Hudson Professor of History and Engineering at Auburn University in 1971. While there he has received three grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and was a fellow at the National Humanities Center in 1978. He directed the Auburn Project on Technology, Human Values, and the Southern Future from 1974 to 1979. He has written a number of books on the aviation industry and the impact of technology on the South. He has also contributed widely to scholarly journals, as well as to reference works such as the Dictionary of American Biography.
In 2005, he published a biography of Eddie Rickenbacker, America's Ace of Aces from World War I. Roland Green would write in Booklist that "Lewis is comprehensive about his subject,...and nearly comprehensive about the process by which interwar American chose its heroes." The Johns Hopkins University Press page promoting the book quotes Thomas Crouch of the National Air and Space Museum as saying, "Lewis gives us the definitive biography of Eddie Rickenbacker, the first great American Ace of Aces, providing a fascinating view of the first half-century of American aviation as experienced by one of its most important pioneers."
Professor Lewis continues to teach and research at Auburn University.
From Newgate to Dannemora: The Rise of the Penitentiary in New York, 1796-1848. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1965.
Economic Change in the Civil War Era. (with David T. Gilchrist, editors) Greenville, DE: Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation, 1965.
Iron and Steel in America. Greenville, DE: Hagley Foundation, 1976.
The Southern Mystique: The Impact of Technology on Human Values in a Changing Region. (with B. Eugene Griessman, editors) Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1977.
Delta: The History of an Airline. (with Wesley Phillips Newton) Athens: U of Georgia P, 1979.
The Airway to Everywhere: A History of All American Aviation, 1937-1953. (With William F. Trimble) Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1988.
Sloss Furnaces and the Rise of the Birmingham District: An Industrial Epic. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1994.
Fighting the Flying Circus. (editor) Chicago: Lakeside Press, 1997.
Airline Executives and Federal Regulation: Case Studies in American Enterprise from the Airmail Era to the Dawn of the Jet Age. (editor) Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2000.
Eddie Rickenbacker: An American Hero in the Twentieth Century. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2005.
Green, Roland. Rev. of Eddie Rickenbacker: An American Hero in the Twentieth Century, by W. David Lewis. Booklist 1 Nov. 2005: 10.