Photo of Vivian Ann Davidson Hewitt
Vivian Ann Davidson Hewitt

Obituary of Vivian Ann Davidson Hewitt

May 29, 2022

The One and Only Vivian Ann Davidson Hewitt, of Manhattan NY, peacefully passed away on May 29th, 2022 at the age of 102.

She was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania on February 17th, 1920. She was predeceased by her husband of 50 years, John Hamilton Hewitt Jr., and son John Hamilton Hewitt III. Left to cherish her memory are her 2 granddaughters LeighAnn Hewitt Easton (Arthur) of Wauseon, Ohio, and Maria Veronica Hewitt Laschon (Clifford) of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—along with their mother Marie Anne Hewitt of Hagerstown, Maryland; 10 great grandchildren Leila, Arthur, Liam, Ada, Levi, Aaron, Lander, Andrew, Lily, and Luveda; nieces Joyce, Natalie and Elena Flowers of Ft. Washington, Maryland.

Vivian was well known for her many academic achievements, always crediting hard work and education for her successful career as a Librarian. She went from being the first African American Librarian allowed to practice in the city of Pittsburgh, to the 55th Floor of Rockefeller Center where she was Librarian for the Rockefeller Foundation. Shortly after, she was afforded a position as the Head Librarian for Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Later she became the first African American president of the Special Libraries Association.

Her extensive career not only took her all over the country but the world. As a testament to her achievements she was, at the ripe age of 97, awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Carnegie Mellon University but her greatest honor was being granted the title of Dame by order of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

Vivian would often say her most divinely guided achievements were when she married her sweetheart John Hewitt Jr., and later welcomed her son, John Hewitt III. Their passion as a couple would lead them towards a love of collecting art. Over the course of their 50 year marriage, their collection and their commitment to one another flourished. Together they created the John & Vivian Hewitt Collection of African-American Art that became a catalyst for mentoring and inspiring art collectors here and abroad. The cornerstone of the permanent collection is housed at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Vivian was a proud woman with a fierce determination to lead by example. She lived her life to the fullest, sharing her love of travel, culture, art and storytelling with friends, family and her avid followers. She was deeply loved and will be missed, but her legacy will live on for generations to come.

A Celebration of Life honoring Vivian will be held on Tuesday June 21, 2022 at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine
1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street
New York, NY 10025

The video will be embedded on this page at 4 pm on Tuesday.

Covid policy for St. John’s is as follows:

*A virtual option to attend will be made available
*Additional details to follow
*For questions please email

In lieu of flowers, the family invites you to make a memorial contribution in remembrance of Vivian to Bethel AME Church (Newcastle, PA) or The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture (Charlotte, NC).

Share a Memory

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As a young art curator and gallerist-mostly associated with the nonprofit gallery founded by the late Rev. Dr. Moran Weston in Harlem I became acquainted with Dame Hewitt. She was always kind and willing to listen to my \'art stories\' and questions about contemporary art and collecting. One time in particular before the beginning of service at St. Philip\'s I had the chance to tell her about an assignment I had given 10th graders about the Hewitt collection and how astounded the students were that the Hewitts lived with so much art! That especially tickled her to hear their amazement and how they were inspired to think about visual artists.

Posted by: Tod Roulette - New York, New York - Acquaintance June 15, 2022

Aunt Vivian and uncle John were responsible for seeing my first but not last board way show. They also helped me acquire my love for art. She and Dr.John will be truly missed for many great reasons.

Posted by: Patricia Mauney - Charlotte, NC - Family June 17, 2022

I have so many fond memories with Mrs. Hewitt, but perhaps my favorite is when I first met her in her apartment (I was representing the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences at the time). It was in the middle of summer of 2016, felt like a million degrees, and I was in a suit, sweating profusely the entire time. What I thought might be an hour or two at the most (she was 96 at the time and I wasn’t sure what to expect) turned into five or six and they went by so quickly. I had the opportunity to learn about the impact she made on the school, listened to her stories, laughed together, and talked about racial equity. She had such a profound impact on me, both personally and professionally, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity work with her for about a year and continue a friendship beyond.

Posted by: Amy Herlich - Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania - Friend June 21, 2022

Upon hearing the sad news my first thought was, “The old lioness is dead. She will walk no more amongst us mortals. Now, she shall watch over her loved ones from on high.” Regal, though not actually royalty yourself, you, my adopted mom, Vivian Ann Davidson Hewitt, died a good death, a peacefully death, in your sleep, after having been honored in life by HM Queen Elizabeth II and made a Dame in The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, the Knights Hospitaller, an ancient order of chivalry under the British crown whose origins date to A.D. 1099. May you Dame, Chairman, Honorary Doctor of Letters and, perhaps your most coveted title so hard fought and won by you, First Black Librarian in Pittsburgh, rest in peace. I, myself, will always think of you as mom. I will always be your loving adopted son. I shall miss you greatly. Rest In Peace, Dame Vivian. Pro Fide, Pro Utilitate Hominum Joseph V. Kuca, GG, OStJ

Posted by: Joseph V. Kuca - Eatontown, NJ - Friend June 21, 2022

One hundred two was just not enough. Your kindness and generosity of encouragement and support will continue to illuminate for generations to come. The Carnegie Mellon Black Alumni Association will tell your trail blazing story over and over. And I will ever tell the story of the friendship we shared. You have truly been a wonderful inspiration.

Posted by: BILL James - NAPERVILLE, IL - Friend June 21, 2022