Remembering Fmr. Ny Supt of Insurance, Albert Lewis.

AuthorAcunto, Steve

An exemplary public servant, gentleman and friend Nany in the insurance industry have communicated great sadness together with enduring admiration for former New York State Superintendent of Insurance, Albert Lewis, who died on August 7th at 95 years of age. The cause was complications from Alzheimer's disease. Insurance regulation was itself improved by Al Lewis who knew the business, liked it and advanced it. Appointed by Governor Carey in 1978, Lewis ran the Insurance Department as an old school populist Democrat, fighting against strong opposition to limit insurance rate increases for individuals and to protect consumers against predatory practices. He began a specialized fraud unit and secured legislation to create a New York Insurance Exchange and Free Trade Zone to compete with insurance exchanges abroad. Following his service, Lewis he noted great respect for the dedicated public servants at the New York State Insurance Department and remained close to many over the years. In 1983, he took up the private practice of law for the three decades, as a partner of DAmato & Lynch. He wrote three important books on insurance and fraud.

His story is one of meaningful service. A graduate of Lafayette High School, he attended Brooklyn College before being drafted into the Army in December 1943. He was assigned to the horse cavalry in Fort Riley, Kansas before being sent to fight in the Pacific Theater. He was part of the first wave of the US Army of Occupation in Japan, spending nearly a year in Kyoto. Discharged in 1945, he enrolled at City College of New York and received his Bachelors in Business Administration and Accounting in 1948. He qualified as a Certified Public Accountant and then attended St. John's University Law School at night, graduating with an LLB in 1954. He was elected to the New York State Senate from what was then the 20th District spanning Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Brighton and Borough Park. He was reelected by wide margins six times.

Considered a maverick Democrat, he often bucked party leadership. Despite the conservative outlook of his largely Catholic and Hasidic district, he voted for abortion reform in the early 1970s, as New York by a very narrow margin became one of the first states in the country to legalize abortion. He also opposed public support of gambling, and was active in efforts to prevent compulsive gambling. His independence in the Senate, largely split between a conservative upstate majority and a...

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