Eighteen years ago, then-Dallas Observer writer Read Martin did a story on an Oak Cliff man named James Lewis, who wanted to get into the demolition business. Lewis had a novel idea: He would employ homeless people to tear down buildings and then he would recycle whatever was salvageable from the buildings. Problem was, Lewis couldn't get on the list of demolition experts who could be awarded government contracts. Something about not being qualified.
But Lewis pressed on, because his true talent was turning garbage into what he considered works of art. In fact, when he met Martin, he made the reporter a promise. Lewis would build something out of trash that would either earn him a lot of money or a lot of prestige, or maybe both. Lewis never forgot that bet.
Well, Martin is long gone, but Lewis has finally made good on his bet.
He recently finished a clock he intends to give to President George W. Bush. Called the George W. Bush Achievement Award Clock, the wooden grandfather clock is made entirely of materials once considered trash. The clock stands a little more than six feet tall and is four feet across at its widest point. Lewis has already written a letter to Bush asking him to accept the clock as a token of his appreciation and respect.
Lewis says he's got a lot of grief in the black community for supporting Bush, but he says he respects the president partly because he identifies with him. Lewis, an eighth-grade drop-out, is dyslexic and can't read or write.
"I watch his press conferences and people constantly mock him about mispronouncing words," he says. "I identify with him because they say he's a person like I am, they say he's got some disabilities like I have. I'm not really seeing it, but they say he does." In spite of Bush's shortcomings, and the things people say about him, he presses on, Lewis says, and does what he thinks is right. Despite the naysayers, Lewis tries to do the same.
If you're interested in buying an exact replica of the clock Lewis has made for President Bush (he also made one for Bush's father) call 972-217-4357. --Jesse Hyde
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