Thomas (Tommy) Lewis was born in St Mary’s in 1873, the son of a dock labourer. He began work at the age of eleven as an apprentice watchmaker. From an early age he was involved in the local and national labour movement and in 1901 became Southampton’s first Labour Party councillor, representing St Mary’s ward. He helped form local branches of the Dockers’ Union, the Ships Stewards’ Union and the National Sailors’ and Firemen’s Union. He was instrumental in forming the breakaway British Seafarers’ Union, of which he became the honorary president. He stood as a parliamentary candidate for Southampton in successive elections in the early 20th century, before being elected in 1929. He lost his seat in 1931 but was elected once more in the Labour landslide of 1945 at the age of 72. He retired from national politics in 1950 and received a CBE in the same year.

He served on the town council for sixty years, becoming an alderman and a honourary freeman of the borough. He died in 1962. A commemorative portrait plaque was erected in the Civic Centre. Lewis House, a block of flats in Kingsland built in 1953, was named after him, as was Thomas Lewis Way, built in the 1980s.

See also:

Morley, Ralph


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