Lufkin Cotton Club, Lewis Motel hold connection to Tina Turner

Tina Turner
Tina Turner(AP)
Published: Jun. 4, 2023 at 6:17 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 5, 2023 at 8:49 AM CDT
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LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - A week after her death, Tina Turner is burning up the charts once again. Billboard reports that eight of the top ten selling songs on the R&B digital sales chart are Tina Turner songs.

That comes as we’re learning more about the queen of rock and roll’s East Texas connections. The Lewis’ opened The Lewis Motel on Kurth Street in Lufkin in 1961. Virginia Lewis says the hotel was opened to give people of color a place to stay.

“Black people didn’t have anywhere to live, stay overnight or two or three days or anything like that. We weren’t allowed to go to any other motel, and so we decided we would do that, and that would accommodate our race,” Virginia said.

Soon after opening, a couple, Ike and Tina Turner came to the motel for the first time to stay while performing at The Cotton Club about half a mile away.

“They came one day an, stayed that night you know and the next day they had the program.”

Tina And Ike came back to Lufkin a few times over the years and stayed at The Lewis Motel each time. In 1963 the Lewis’ also opened a beauty shop.

“During the day I had to fix Ike’s hair,” Virginia said.

Bettell Lewis Benham was 11 when they first came to her family’s hotel. She says her friends’ family owned The Cotton Club and also has stories.

“Their home was connected to the Cotton Club, he was telling me, ‘Bettell, I remember them making dinner and they would come, and it was just like family.’” Battell said.

She says it was also told that people would stack milk carriers up to peek inside of the windows of The Cotton Club while Tina and Ike were performing. Yvonne Lewis was a year old when Tina and Ike came to the area, she says she grew up hearing stories about the two and their love for her mother’s cooking, especially her pound cake.

“My mom would tell me, she cooked the cake and Ike got to taste it and they were on their way to Nacogdoches, and he turned it all the way around to come back and get the rest of the cake,” Yvonne said.

As Tina’s fame grew the Lewis’ watched and cheered her on from Lufkin.

“Just proud for her, because she was such a nice person, I was just glad to see her be successful,” Virginia said.

The Lewis family forever holds on to the memories of Tina and was proud to have hosted her in their establishment all those years ago.

“Looking back on it now, it’s very inspiring, it’s a sense of legacy and sense of pride to have someone like Ike and Tina to through it kind of legitimizes your purpose of being there,” Yvonne said.

The Cotton Club closed its doors in 1967 and The Lewis Motel closed in 2019.