Judge Kenny Lewis impacts community with gifts – Learned from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Judge Kenny Lewis – trailblazer, Man of God, Dr. King mentee, job shadowing mentor, proponent of light, community builder

By Janice K. Neal-Vincent, Ph.D.,
Contributing Writer,

If you’ve been around Kenny Lewis for a brief moment, you would know that there is something about him that causes you to pause in observation. This Mississippian hails from Clinton and comes with profound knowledge and understanding of the seeds of humanity. During the course of his lifetime, he has grown under the influence of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who reckoned with unjust laws and inhumane treatment as the pendulum of justice swung around America and the world among higher to lower echelons during the turbulent 60s.
Neither government officials nor police brutality could deter Dr. King’s strides for the good of humanity. Neither order out of chaos, nor citizens’ resentment could halt his drive to instill youth and adults to pursue his dream of nonviolent resistance.
Such steadfastness touched the heart and soul of Lewis.
“The I Have a Dream speech was not only a speech, but a vision to future generations. Dr. King gave me the ability to dream for the unseen and supernatural. Dr. King taught me the importance of standing for right in the midst of wrong. Dr. King’s life encouraged me to love the unlovable, serve all [people], learn to forgive.” Lewis said that such service allows him to make an impact in his community without the use of violence.
Lewis credits working with the young to be enriching and inspiring. He has a job shadowing ministry called “I stand before them so they won’t stand before me.” Assisting him in this ministry is Constable Leon Seals. This ministry includes youth ages 12-17. “This is the age range responsible for committing the most violent crimes,” says Lewis.
The mentor has been working in Justice Court with job shadowing since 2019 when he was elected as Justice Court Judge by citizens of Hinds County District 4. The judge realized that juveniles were committing most of the crimes. “I decided that I could use my platform to encourage the youth to be on the right side of the law and be [change agents] in their community.
In reflection of King’s quote: “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” Lewis gives his interpretation. “This tells me to not give up because right looks wrong, and wrong looks right. There is hope if we stay consistent that right will stand up along with freedom, equality and justice.”
Not only does Lewis instill the above in the minds of the youth, but he shared this quote by King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” In response to this quote, the judge made it clear: “I can’t fight someone with [her/his] same force. I am in need of something more powerful to subdue darkness and hate. That something is light and love.” Lewis then added, “The same is in the face of negativity or adversity. I have to respond with the opposite if I am to expect…progress.”
Fighting clean and not dirty is Lewis’s forte. Consistent with King’s hate/love analogy is a gratifying and rewarding experience that Lewis encountered as a worker in the Clinton Police Department.
He described Monique as a very disrespectful, angry, mischievous and promiscuous teen. Her mother was desperate for help for her child, so she sought Lewis’ help. “I was given the opportunity to mentor Monique for several years. Years later, Monique reached out to me and told me how much she appreciated me not giving up on her.” Today Monique is a nurse who is happily married. “The most gratifying and rewarding experience was being able to witness Monique graduate from high school, college and get married,” Lewis recalled.
Then there were Stephen Simmons and his brother Preston Simmons – troubled youth who were strengthened by Lewis. Stephen recalled what his life was like 25 years ago and emailed Lewis on January 9, 2024: “My mom was a single mother with two knuckleheads to raise, and we did not make it easy for her…I remember you bringing me to your church with your family one Sunday. You showed me compassion, and it took me completely by surprise. I was so lost and didn’t think anyone cared…I’ve been up and down since then, but never forgot your kindness. You had a truly profound impact on my life, and I want to give you your flowers.”
Lewis is a staunch advocate of the young learning from their elders. “It’s essential so the young will be empowered, strengthened from the experiences of the elders,” he said. He also advises the elders to follow the advice of the Psalmist in Psalm 118:8: “It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man.”
When it comes to working for the good of humanity, the job shadowing master shares the following with the young: (1) obey your parents; (2) get an education; (3) set realistic goals; (4) give back to your community; (5) make good decisions; (6) be accountable for your actions; and (7) pass down good information). Lewis believes that putting these components to action will provide assurance for successful goal attainment.
Born to Clara Lewis and the late Robert Lewis in 1971 in Jackson, Miss., Lewis obtained his educational training from Clinton High School (1989); Delta State University, B.S. – Criminal Justice (1993); New Foundation Seminary Masters of Theology (2016); and Mississippi Judiciary College (2019).
For approximately 33 years, Lewis has been serving the community in the following capacities: (1) ordained minister; (2) Koinonia Marriage Counseling Service; (3) Clinton Police Department chaplain; (4) Clinton Public School Board president; (5) State of Mississippi School Board; (6) youth speaker for the Clinton, Hinds and Jackson School Districts; (6) Friends of Jackson Mentoring Program; (7) Clinton Public School’s Real Man Mentoring Program; and (8) I Stand Before Them So They Won’t stand Before Me, Job Shadowing.
Lewis’ favorite scripture is Proverbs 18:16: “A man’s gift will make room for him and brings him before great men.” He shares that empowering individuals to smile from the heart is one of his greatest gifts. In light of that, Lewis’ greatest ministry “is exemplified in everything I do.”
Lewis is not on his journey alone. His wife Vickie co-ministers with him in small group settings as well as one-on-one counseling. Their ministry occurs in “a relaxed environment while endeavoring to solidify the bond of peace and the love of God for others.”
See photos on page 2.

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