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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Our History

William T. Lewis

Name:  William Thomas Lewis

Date of Birth:  1889

Date of Death: 07/15/1927

Location of Death:  New Bern, NC

 

 

CIRCUMSTANCES OF DEATH

Prohibition Agents William Lewis, A. M. Beck, J. B. Rosser, C. W. Lineberger and Deputy Administrator McDuffie traveled to Kingston, NC, to make an undercover purchase of liquor from Andrew Purefoy, a known bootlegger. Agents Lewis and Lineberger, acting in an undercover capacity, went to the Luby Sauls Filling Station outside Kingston.  Sauls directed them to park their car behind his station, and shortly thereafter, three suspects arrived in two vehicles.  After some conversation, two suspects left in the Government car, while the two undercover agents rode with the third suspect in his car. As they neared the town of New Bern, the car carrying the agents took several back roads and met up with the first two suspects, who now had the Government car loaded with moonshine.

After making payment for the liquor, the agents attempted to arrest the suspects, however, gunfire was exchanged and one suspect was wounded.  Agent Lineberger gave chase to a fleeing suspect, but Agent Lewis was overpowered by the others who robbed him of his money.  When Agent Lewis attempted to leave, they fired two shots into his back. Agent Lewis died the following day in Memorial General Hospital, Kingston, NC. Three brothers, Virgil, Lee, and Luther Sermons were later arrested and charged with Agent Lewis' murder.  At trial, they were acquitted by a local jury after claiming they had shot in self-defense.

BACKGROUND

Agent Lewis joined the Bureau of Prohibition sometime prior to 1927.  Official personnel records are incomplete.

PERSONAL

Agent Lewis was born in Moore City, NC.  He was survived by his wife, J. D. Lewis, and their son, Willie.

RESOURCES