George Kempe Lewis

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George Kempe Lewis

Birthdate: (72)
Birthplace: Mesa, Maricopa, AZ, USA
Death: May 5, 1975 (72)
Immediate Family:

Son of George William Lewis and Olena Dorthea Lewis
Husband of Rhoda Marian Lewis
Brother of Anna Martha Evans; Ora Wilson; Wiliam Crismon Lewis; Ruth Peterson; Ben Elden Lewis and 1 other

Managed by: Randy Stebbing
Last Updated:

About George Kempe Lewis

Biographical Summary:

George K. Lewis (May 9, 1902-May 5, 1975) was born in Mesa, Maricopa, Arizona the son of George Lewis and Olena Kempe. His siblings were Anna, Ora, William, Ruth, Ben and Walter. As a boy, his relatives called him George K. to differentiate him from his father George W. This name evolved (with the help of the pronunciation of George in Spanish as "Horkay") to the nickname "Georkee" by which everyone knew him except professionally.

George married Rhoda Lee on 23 May 1942 in Canton, Lewis, Missouri. This couple had no children. George died on 5 May 1975 and is buried in Salt Lake City Cemetery, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake Utah.


GEORGE K. LEWIS was born in Mesa, Arizona on May 9, 1902, to Olena Kempe and George W. Lewis. He was the second child and the oldest son in a family of seven children. He attended elementary school in Mesa and then transferred to the BYU when the family moved to Provo, Utah, in 1915. He learned fast, was happy, friendly and full of mischief. Like his sister Anna, he was very active in school, church, and at home. There were many chores on the farm so he learned early to work and be useful. He learned early the correct usage of a gun and enjoyed hunting with his father. He too was unhappy at leaving Mesa, the farm, school, church and home, but it wasn't long until he found Provo, with its mountains, canyons, lakes and streams and BYU, very interesting. He had a gift for making friends and lasting relationships. He seemed to enjoy the things he had to do as well as the things he chose to do. George K. discovered early his talent for art and he enjoyed working in all kinds of media. He became dissatisfied with his name and was looking for a nickname when his cousin Billy Coleman came up with "Georkee which stayed with him for years and also became his trademark.

Georkee was just 18 when he was called to the Northwestern States Mission in 1920. His sister was in the Northern States and his father a missionary on the Temple Block in Salt Lake City. He filled a successful two year mission.

George K. returned to the family home in Salt Lake and enrolled in LDS Junior College. He spent a summer learning photography from KEEN POLK. He then registered at BYU to major in art. He participated in many activities and was known by every one for his versatility in many areas. He developed humorous and illustrated chalk talks and was in great demand. With GLENN POTTER he trained the BYU team's mascots, the Cougars "Cleo" and "Tarbo". He was elected art editor of the Baryon. One year its humorous section, the Banyon, was dedicated to him. Wherever there was something exciting happening, Georkee seemed to be there.

His English professor, HARRISON R. MERRILL, nominated him for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship and Georkee was planning for a few years at school in England until he found his birthday was a few days too early and he had to change his plans. During summer vacations Georkee worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad in Southern Utah. He drove a bus and acted as guide through Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon Parks. One of his passengers, an executive of the eastern-based Keystone View Company, became interested in Georkee and his photography and he was given the chance to take pictures for Keystone throughout the world.

Georkee's knack of being in the right place at the right time served him well . His training in art helped make his pictures meaningful. He was able to get along with people in all classes. He contacted the Mormon missionaries in foreign speaking countries and they were always helpful and the name "Georkee" became well-known in the photography world.

Following his assignment he worked at the home office in Pennsylvania one of his most rewarding friendships was made with the great poet Carl Sandburg, whose pictures Georkee was assigned to take.

Georkee's inventive mind was always prodding him and he was either improving things or making new ones. He developed a projector for Kodak and later a better one for Bell and Howell. The possibilities of three dimension intrigued him . With his brother Chris, whom he had enticed to come east to work with photography, and BILL FROST, he founded the Three Dimension Company of Chicago. During World War II their company did a tremendous service for the military. Following the war the Bell and Howell Company bought the Third Dimension Company and Georkee was able to retire at an early age. Chris went into business for himself, founding the Three Dimension Optical Company . During this time Georkee had lost a leg to cancer but it did not hold him back as he kept developing many things.

On May 23, 1942. Georkee married Rhoda Lee and with his retirement the two were able to travel, study art and plan a "dream home" in Zion's Canyon close to Zion's Park. He built his home of native rock near a lake for boating and fishing, a reservoir for swimming and colorful unsurpassed mountain scenery. George's mind, however, never let him completely rest. He had many projects to keep him busy. Like his parents before him, he enjoyed making others happy and their lives easier. He liked to paint, and poetry came naturally to him. His light verse was always delightful.

SOURCE: John Moss Lewis History. Section 7, Page 18.

Professional Career Article

The following article details his professional carer as a photographer and is excerpted in full from the magazine article in which it appeared.

George K was the last of the generation of professional stereoscopic photographers who had for many years examined the world and brought into the parlor the popular pictorial travelogues of that day. George was born in Mesa, Arizona in 1902. His father was a farmer-rancher who homesteaded in that arid area in the 1890s and helped build the first irrigation canals. His mother was a teacher from a pioneer community of northeastern Arizona. After he had finished his public schooling, he was sent for two years at age 16 as a proselytizing missionary for his church into the states of Montana and Washington. Upon his return he enrolled at Brigham Young University, where his mother had graduated. He acquired from his mother her hobby and skill in photography, and with his natural artistic talent he became the activity photographer for the student body. A second hobby was raising two cougars (the school mascots) which had been captured as cubs in the Grand Canyon area and which he "handled" long after they reached maturity.

During his summer breaks, George was employed by the Union Pacific Railroad as a bus-driver and guide for the tourists to the parks of southern Utah and northern Arizona. In those days of rudimentary transportation, the Union Pacific would disgorge its weekly load of tourists at the dead-end terminal of Cedar City, Utah. There, due to the small, open-air buses, they would be assigned in groups of 12-15 to these young college drivers, who would be responsible for them for the week as they drove over primitive dirt roads through Zion, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks. It was a rather arduous and sometimes terrifying experience for these eastern "dudes" to traverse high mountain passes, suffer physical stress because of mechanical breakdowns, and endure disconcerting feelings of isolation in the vast western wilderness. G.E. Hamilton, Vice President of Keystone View Company, was one of these "dudes" who became well acquainted with George, and hired him as a photographer for the company. (August, 1929) As a boy, his relatives called him George K. to differentiate him from his father George W. This name evolved (with the help of the pronunciation of George in Spanish as "Horkay") to the nickname "Georkee" by which everyone knew him until his move to the job with Keystone.

George subsequently traveled to many areas of the world, adding thousands of views to the library of Keystone. One anecdote he enjoyed telling related to a photo appointment he had with Mahatma Ghandi (photo). As Ghandi sat on the floor in his white robes, George, to break the ice, brought with him a Keystone Telebinocular viewer with pictures of dignitaries Ghandi might know, so he could see them in full three-dimensional reality. As Ghandi momentarily took the viewer from his eyes, but still holding it near his face while displaying a big smile, George snapped a picture. An aid of Ghandi's, sensing possible commercial implications, immediately jumped up and protested that he couldn't permit a picture like that to be taken. George, without hesitation, removed the film carrier from the 5x7 Stereo Graflex, slid open the back cover slide and handed the flow ruined film to the protesting aid. The aid, apparently unaware that there are two sides, and there- fore two films in a Graflex film carrier, was placated.

One of George's assignments took him to Capetown, South Africa, from where he traversed that continent back and forth all the way to Egypt, where he arrived just in time to take his most famous stereograph. He climbed to the top of the Great Pyramid at Giza with all his equipment and took a picture of two men in native robes sitting in the foreground, looking across at the Graf Zeppelin flying over an adjacent pyramid. He included a golf club and ball with his equipment and had a helper snap a stereo as he drove off the tallest tee in the world. (photo) Keystone had contracted with writer Carl Sandburg to compose commentaries that were printed on the backs of the views. As Sandburg had not visited all the places where George had taken pictures, the two had to get together frequently to compare notes on what should be said with Sandburg?s language expertise. This association developed into a close friendship for many years.

In the 1930s George developed bone cancer and had a leg amputated. This forced him toward more sedentary activities. He became a principle in the Three Dimension Coin company of Chicago, where during World War II his artistic talent and understanding of 3-D combined in his creation of the "Cones of Fire" series for the Armed Services. This taught pilots how to approach enemy aircraft from an angle which would minimize expo-sure to fire. After the war his designs helped TDC to become, at the time, the foremost slide projector manufacturer in the world. After TDC. was acquired by Bell & Howell in the early 1950s, George retired to his ranch in a remote canyon of southern Utah, contiguous to Zion National Park. He died in 1975.

SOURCE: From Stereo World. November/December 1993. Liner Notes from George Lewis Booklet, by Walter Lewis

The University of California has a collection of over 2,000 images that George Lewis photographed. To view them visit and do a search for "George Lewis".

Photography Examples

Wikipedia Biography Summary

The following excerpt describes George K. Lewis involvement in the founding of Brigham Young University's mascot "Cosmo the Cougar".

"...Two cougar cubs were acquired from a forest ranger on the Kaibab National Forest in 1925-6 after their mother was killed by hunters. They were reared in a kitchen stove wood box by a group of students which included Glenn S. Potter, George K. (Georkee) Lewis, Chris Lewis, Bliss Finlayson, and others. They named the cubs Cleo (short for Cleopatra) and Tarbo (an Indian name for Brigham Young)...

...Lewis was a talented photographer and artist who worked for Movietone News after graduation. He was founded the TDC (Three Dimension Corp) Corporation of Chicago, a pioneer in three dimension photography and optical equipment.



For an example of his poetry see "The Congo" by Georkee Lewis (Written on the Lualaba, Kataaga, Belgian Congo, Africa, February 19, 1931.)

SOURCE:; Retrieved July 2009. Note this link is no longer available.

Vital Record Sources


1910 U.S. census population schedule, Mesa, Maricopa, Arizona, enumeration district (ED) 70, p. 12 b, family 140, family of George W. Lewis; digital images (accessed 20 Aug 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 40; Name: George K Lewis; Age in 1910: 7; Estimated Birth Year: abt 1903; Birthplace: Arizona; Relation to Head of House: Son; Father's Name: George W; Father's Birth Place: Idaho; Mother's Name: Olena K; Mother's Birth Place: Utah; Home in 1910: Mesa, Maricopa, Arizona; Marital Status: Single; Race: White; Gender: Male.

1920 U.S. census population schedule, Provo Ward 6, Utah, Utah, enumeration district (ED) 210, p. 3 a, dwelling 47, family 54, family of George Lewis; digital images (accessed 12 Aug 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T625, roll 1868; Name: George K Lewis; Home in 1920: Provo Ward 6, Utah, Utah; Age: 17 years; Estimated Birth Year: abt 1903; Birthplace: Arizona; Relation to Head of House: Son; Father's Name: George W; Father's Birth Place: Idaho; Mother's Name: Olena; Mother's Birth Place: Utah; Marital Status: Single; Race: White; Sex: Male; Able to read: Yes; Able to Write: Yes.

1930 U.S. census population schedule, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, enumeration district (ED) 9, p. 13 a, dwelling 164, family 181, family of George W. Lewis; digital images (accessed 20 Aug 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T626, roll 2418; Name: George K Lewis; Home in 1930: Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah; Age: 27; Estimated Birth Year: abt 1903; Relation to Head of House: Son; Father's Name: George W; Mother's Name: Olena K; Race: White; Occupation: Traveling Artist.


Salt Lake City Cemetery Records, 1848-1992, database, Ancestry (, entry for : George K. Lewis; Name: George K. Lewis; Birth Date: May 9, 1902; Birth Place: Arizona; Death Date: 6 May 1975; Death Place: Salt Lake City,Utah; Plot: 98992 E-13-18-RDWY-4; Burial Date: 9 May 1975.

findagrave, database, findagrave ( : accessed 17 Sep 2009), memorial for George Kempe Lewis; Find A Grave Memorial# 23705143.

Social Security Death Index: Name: George Lewis SSN: 211-09-9820 Last Residence: 84767 Springdale, Washington, Utah, United States of America Born: 9 May 1902 Died: May 1975 State (Year) SSN issued: Pennsylvania (Before 1951 )

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George Kempe Lewis's Timeline

May 9, 1902
Mesa, Maricopa, AZ, USA
May 9, 1910
Age 8
May 5, 1975
Age 72