Miggie Lewis of The Lewis Family dies at 91 after 60 years on stages

Lewis Family sisters (from left) Miggie Lewis, Janis Lewis Phillips and Polly Williamson Copsey sing during a show at the Imperial Theatre Thursday evening September 25, 2008. The Lewis Family is said to be “America’s first family of Gospel Bluegrass” and they got their start in Lincolnton, Ga. in the early 1950s. FILE/STAFF

Throughout most of her adult life, Omega “Miggie” Lewis of Lincolnton, Ga., was ridiculed in public by her younger brother, Little Roy, who always joked about Miggie being a never married “old maid.”

 

He would have packed-house audiences throughout the United States and on cruise ships bent-over laughing at the stories, almost all made up, about his sister and her failed love life.

But that was just in public where Miggie for 60 years performed as part of The Lewis Family on some of the world’s most famous stages including The Kennedy Center, The Lincoln Center, the Grand Ole Opry houses old and new, and the Smithsonian Institute’s Baird Auditorium.

The obituary in The Augusta Chronicle for Lewis, who died Tuesday at 91 after a brief illness, noted, “Although she never married or had children of her own, Miggie was never alone… She was always surrounded by her siblings, nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews, great-great nieces and nephews and thousands of Lewis Family fans.”

Lewis mostly sang backup vocals rather than lead on stage shows, television, radio and more than 60 albums as part of a performing group known internationally as “America’s First Family of Bluegrass-Gospel Music.”

The family, inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1992, was seen for six decades onits own program and Christmas specials on WJBF-TV beginning in the late 1950s when the station was located in North Augusta and the programs were broadcast live.

Miggie was admired and loved for her talent on stage and her humorous and kind nature off stage by some of the biggest celebrities in bluegrass, gospel and country music.

The performing family began in the late 1940s when the Lewis brothers began entertaining at local gatherings. The boys added Miggie to the group first and then their father and two sisters.

In 1951, the group began billing themselves as The Lewis Family rather than The Lewis Brothers when asked to do a Woodmen of the World social club supper in Thomson.

In recent years during the gospel music festivals in May co-hosted by her niece, Sheri Easter, and her husband, Jeff, Lewis loved meeting with fans as she hosted tours of the house near Lincolnton built by her father where many of her siblings were born.

She was preceded in death by her parents, James Roy “Pop” Lewis and Pauline “Mom” Lewis, and brothers Mosely and Wallace Lewis. Survivors included her sisters, Polly Lewis Williamson Copsey and Janis Lewis Phillips, and brothers Esley, Talmadge and Little Roy Lewis.

Two of the pallbearers will be former Lewis Family performers and her nephews, Travis Lewis and Lewis Phillips.

Visitation is 6 until 8 p.m. Wednesday at Rees Funeral Home, 195 N. Peachtree St., Lincolnton, Ga. (706) 359-3222.

The funeral service will be at Hephzibah Baptist, northwest of Lincolnton, at 3 p.m. Thursday, where she will join so many other family members buried in the nearby graveyard.

Memorial contributions can be made to: Restoration of The Lewis Family Homeplace, P.O. Box 160, Lincolnton, GA 30817.

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