Lewis MacAdams (1944 - 2020)



Lewis passed away April 21 from complications related to Parkinson's disease.


Lewis's career as a poet and as the leader in the restoration of the Los Angeles River are widely known, as reported in the lengthy Los Angeles Times obituary and as recognized by the Class of 1966 with the awarding of the Locomotive Award in May, 2018.


Classmate Jon Wiener recalls, "I know Lewis really loved that ’66 locomotive award ceremony – it was the last big thing he did before things really went downhill.  His last months (and years) were miserable, but for most of his life he was pretty glorious – a real poet, a lifelong activist, and a friend of the LA River."


For more on Lewis's long and varied career, see Poetry and Politics: An Autobiography written in 2010, his Wikipedia biography which includes a long list of books and other selected publications, and Lewis discussing and reading two poems from the river.


February 22, 2021Shall We Gather at the River?, is Poetry Foundation tribute to Lewis. "Lewis MacAdams was one of California’s great conservationists. But his book-long epic poem, The River, may be his most enduring legacy."


Classmate Comments


The Locomotive Award page contains several classmate tributes. Several more tributes came in after the announcement.


  • Terry Seymour writes: "My most striking memory of Lewis came during tryouts for freshman basketball. As the time grew closer for cutting the aspiring players down to the final roster, Lewis could sense that his candidacy was not going well. Each day he would actively campaign for his inclusion, not just to the coaching staff, but to anyone who would listen. On the final practice before cuts, we were scrimmaging, with Lewis in the lineup. As he crossed mid-court, dribbling the ball, he launched a shot that must have been from at least 40 feet. I saw the quote in his obituary that said words to the effect that if it was not impossible he wasn’t interested. That must have been what Lewis had in mind when he took that ridiculous shot. It did not go into the hoop, or even very close. I always wondered why he did such a crazy thing that was sure to end any chance he had. Now I know what he was thinking."
  • Jon Wiener forwards this from our classmate Bob Edelman: "My favorite Lewis story involves basketball. He was practicing alone in Dillon gym and who should walk in but Bill Bradley—who asked Lewis what he was doing there. Lewis responded, "trying out for the team.  How about you Bill?'"
  • Paul Boorstin '65: Lew was a true original, an inspiring and dedicated person, creative in so many ways. He will be missed by many people. My life, and the lives of a lot of other people, was enriched by knowing him.



Top: Freshman Herald and Nassau Herald photos.


See the LA Times obituary and Locomotive Award page for several recent photographs in addition to the ones here.


Below 1) High school basketball captain. 2) Prince May 1965 chosen as head of new group The Arts at Princeton




Below 1) From his "Good Grief" CD. 2) Family 2018: Will, Natalia, Lewis, Torii, Ocean



Below 1) Eugene Daub (sculptor) putting the finishing touches on the sculpture of Lewis, honoring him for his work to save the Los Angeles River and as a founder of FOLAR.  2018. 2) The finished sculpture. The full quote is "If it's not impossible, I'm not interested." The second quote, on the side of the left photo, is from "The River, Book 2" (see the link above to Lewis reading two poems).