Faded Sandpaper

Delbert Lewis

Delbert Lewis

Delbert & Jewell Lewis met in Florence, Arizona when Del was eleven years old and Jewell McFarland was seven years old. The Lewis family later moved to Phoenix. In 1940, Jewell’s father, Ernest McFarland, who was an Arizona Superior Court Judge and a cotton farmer, was elected to the U.S. Senate. In 1944, Del joined the Navy and was sent to the Pacific during World War II.

Upon his return to Arizona, Del and Jewell met again just prior to enrolling at the University of Arizona. They dated through college and were married, in 1951, Afterwards, Del worked as a civil engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers in Virginia.

Del & Jewell were soon given the opportunity to move back to Arizona and assume responsibility for the McFarland family cotton farm in Florence. Del managed the farm operations and Jewell taught. In 1952, when Senator McFarland was defeated by Barry Goldwater, he returned to Arizona and, with a desire to continue to serve the community, was elected Governor of Arizona in 1954. Meanwhile, Ernest McFarland saw an opportunity to pioneer a new business – television stations. In 1955, with a group of three friends, Del and Jewell received the permit for Arizona Television Company, KTVK-TV.

The Lewis’s became partners in the company and, many years later, took over the station management with Del Lewis as president, CEO & general manager and Jewell Lewis as chairman of the board. The early years were lean but, with family spirit, persistence, and hard work, Channel 3 and ABC finally shot to the top of network ratings in 1976. It therefore came as a shock in 1995 when ABC was forced to pull the network from Channel 3 due to a series of acquisition repercussions.

Despite this obstacle, the Lewis family remained steadfast and rebuilt as an independent station. KTVK 3-TV became one of the top independent television stations in the country. Over the years, their media empire acquired KESZ-FM radio, KOAZ-FM radio, Desert Video Production Center, Phoenix magazine and a local marketing agreement with KSAW Channel 61.

The Lewis’s generously contributed time as well as funding to a number of local organizations. The Orpheum Theater restoration is one example. Del and Jewell received numerous honors from the community, many bestowed upon them as a couple.