In 1991, Speaker Gibson D. 'Gib" Lewis (1937-) became the first individual in Texas history to be elected presiding officer of the House of Representatives for five terms. Lewis, an 11-term legislator from Tarrant County, brought to the speakership a philosophy emphasizing the committee process, which he considered the heart of lawmaking.
Lewis was born in Oletha, Texas, and spent his early years in Mexia. He was graduated from Cleveland High School in 1955 and attended Sam Houston State Teachers College before continuing his studies at Texas Christian University during the period he was assigned to Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. After four years in the Air Force, Lewis took a job in 1961 as a salesman for a paper company and, three years later, opened his own firm specializing in pressure-sensitive labels and decals. Lewis continues as president of Lewis Label Products, Inc., today, three decades after its founding.
Lewis first became involved in civic affairs in 1969 when he was elected to the River Oaks City Council. Following a successful campaign for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives, he arrived in Austin in 1971 as a member of the Fort Worth delegation. Marked for leadership early in his career, Lewis was named chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources in his second term of office and served as chairman of the House Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs for four legislative sessions, beginning in 1977.
Over the course of 22 years, Lewis shepherded numerous bills through the legislative process. Among his most notable achievements was the role he played in the passage of the education reform bill of 1984, which encompassed the most sweeping package of public education reforms in Texas history. He also was instrumental in the passage of the comprehensive Texas Water Plan in 1985.
In subsequent legislative sessions, Lewis's leadership was a key factor in the passage of legislation to combat crime, toughen laws against drunk drivers, improve health care for the aged and indigent, and combat cancer. Speaker Lewis was a staunch advocate of the Texas highway system as well as a champion for the development of sound economic policies aimed at enhancing the Texas business climate.
Lewis has been honored on numerous occasions for his wildlife conservation efforts. His legislative accomplishments in this regard included authoring legislation creating "Operation Game Thief" and co-authoring the Uniform Game Management Act of 1983.
Lewis remains active in state government as a legislative consultant in Austin. He is married to Sandra Majors Lewis and the couple has two daughters.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Presiding Officers of the Texas Legislature, 1846-2002. [Austin, Tex.]: Texas Legislative Council, 2002. link: Gib Lewis.