Former deputy mayor of London Ray Lewis dies aged 61

A former deputy mayor of London who founded a organisation which helped disadvantaged young children, which is said to have inspired a BBC series, has died aged 61.

Ray Lewis was deputy to then-London mayor Boris Johnson, but resigned in July 2008 following allegations of inappropriate behaviour and financial irregularities.

In 2002 Mr Lewis set up the Eastside Young Leaders’ Academy (EYLA), a charity which sent hundreds of disadvantaged young children to elite public schools in an attempt to address racial inequality.

The work of the charity is said to have inspired the creator of BBC3 series Boarders, a comedy drama about five black students who win scholarships to an elite private school.

Mr Lewis died overnight on Good Friday.

Former deputy mayor Ray Lewis
Former deputy mayor Ray Lewis has died (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Mr Lewis, who as deputy mayor had been in charge of leading the capital’s policy on youth crime, at the time said he was resigning in the face of a “drip, drip” of allegations against him which was “getting in the way of the very important work of this mayor and his vision for London”.

But he added that the “seeming duplicity” over his role as a magistrate – he had been recommended but not actually appointed – was the main reason for his resignation.

A spokesman for the mayor later said the City Hall investigation into Mr Lewis had been dropped because it would be “inappropriate to use taxpayers’ money to fund an inquiry into a private individual”.

In 2010 it was announced that Mr Lewis would help to lead Mr Johnson’s drive to recruit 1,000 people to inspire troubled and often violent youngsters.

He was made a CBE after being nominated by former prime minister Mr Johnson in his resignation honours in 2023.

Mr Lewis was born in Guyana and grew up in Walthamstow, east London.

According to a biography released when he joined Mr Johnson’s administration, Mr Lewis was ordained as a priest in 1990.

He worked as a curate at St Mary Magdalene Church in Islington, north London, before becoming vicar of St Matthew’s in east London in 1993.

In 2000 he started work in the Prison Service at Woodhill Young Offenders’ Institution, and then in 2002 he set up the Eastside Young Leaders’ Academy.

The charity in Forest Gate, east London, works with black boys at risk of exclusion from school.

Mr Lewis extended EYLA’s reach across London and further afield to Milton Keynes, Leicester and Nottingham.

An article in a national newspaper in which five disadvantaged young black men from Newham, east London, who were sent to Rugby School in 2008 through the work of EYLA, reflected on their experiences, is said to have inspired Boarders’ writer Daniel Lawrence Taylor.

Mr Lewis had three daughters and two grandchildren with his wife Pamela.

Mr Lewis’s daughter Chloe said: “Ray, our dad, was a force of nature. This was as true of him as a father and husband, as much as it was in his professional life.

“He instilled in us all the importance of living a genuinely purpose -riven life, and his work ethic was matched only by his sense of humour. He leaves behind a huge legacy, and a hole in our lives and those of hundreds of others.”

EYLA’s co-founder Anne Collard and head of programmes Carol Murraine said: “Ray was not just the founder of EYLA, he was a friend and father figure to many and will be deeply missed.

“His legacy and light will live on through his family and the young leaders who he inspired and challenged to be the best that they can be. We will now look to them to lead us forward.”

Ric Lewis, executive chairman and co-chief investment officer of Tristan Capital Partners and founder of The Black Heart Foundation, became a patron of EYLA in 2007.

He said: “Almost from the first days I arrived to live in England 25 years ago, Ray Lewis joined me, partnered with me and taught me how to lead with grace, import and impact as we jointly sought to make a difference in the inspiration and aspiration of the disenfranchised young people throughout our country.

“I regard him as a mentor and a brother. The Black Heart Foundation wouldn’t serve as it does today without Ray’s guidance, input and governance.

“There are few words that can properly quantify the enormity of Ray’s impact on so very many of us and the immensity of the loss to our community as we chart our pathway forward without him.”

Patrick Derham, a former headmaster of Rugby and Westminster School, added: “Meeting Ray changed my life.

“He was a visionary who helped so many young people believe in themselves and to be agents of change in their communities and beyond. His legacy will live on.”