James William Lewis, age 84, of Mt. Vernon, Missouri passed away on Friday, April 12, 2024, at his home. He was born August 10, 1939, in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Harry and Mary (Keranen) Lewis.
On June 4, 1956, he married Margie Ingram in Downey, California. He lost her in 2008, the day after their 52nd wedding anniversary.
Jim grew up in Los Angeles, California and attended Huntington Park High School. He spent summers on the family farm in Minnesota with his maternal Finnish grandparents who spoke little to no English. In 1967, he was transferred from California to Mt. Vernon as an employee of Carnation Can Company, where he worked for many years. Jim spent 15 years as a truck driver for J.B. Hunt Transport winning numerous safety and “Driver of the Year” awards. He was also a farmer.
In 1954, he purchased his dad’s 1941 Chevy Coupe and built his first street rod. At the age of 14, Jim jumped into the fledgling sport of drag racing—on the track and on the streets. He was an early member of the Maywood Drag Wagons car club with Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and spent countless hours learning the ropes at Mickey Thompson’s garage.  He briefly held the unofficial California state record for fastest quarter mile in C/Stock Class. Throughout his life he was recognized as “Little Jimmy Lewis” at car shows and National Hot Rod Association events all over the country.
At the age of 82, Jim gave up his beloved motorcycle. While in his 70’s he rode over 160K miles earning dozens of Iron Butt Association certifications and patches. The first qualifying ride is 1500 miles in 24 hours, which Jim accomplished with a broken shift ankle. His biggest run was from Key West, Florida to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The IBA required 21 days to make the one-way trip. Jim made the round trip, including one overnight stop at home, in 20 days.
Jim’s favorite ride was his 1949 International pickup truck, an anniversary gift from Margie many years before. He spent three years turning it into a one of-a-kind street rod. He participated in Hot Rod/Motortrend Magazine Power Tours all over the country, making his last tour in December of 2023. At the age of 84, recovering from a broken hip, Jim ran his last quarter mile at The Strip at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was a good 13 seconds. He received a ticket for street racing in Arizona on his way home.
Jim is survived by two daughters: Lisa Lewis and her husband, Bill Petrus of Springfield, Missouri, Jami Lewis and her husband, Eric Corey of Mt. Vernon, Missouri; seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and many cousins, friends, and neighbors.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Margie; parents; daughter, Vicki Lewis Gunter; and grandson, William “Billy Joe” Harris.
A visitation will be held from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, 2024, at the Jones Memorial Chapel in Mt. Vernon.
In lieu of flowers please make a donation to the charity of your choice.
Arrangements have been entrusted to the care of Lakin Funeral Home in Pierce City.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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