In addition to helping found the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Lester served as its research director and treasurer from 1991-95. He also acquired rare artifacts from the families of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Archie Ware, Chet Brewer and others for the NLBM’s archives. In 1990 he secured full-hooded Ku Klux Klan robes for the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City, Mo., and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn.
During his tenure at the NLBM, Lester served as senior editor for its quarterly newsletter and annual yearbook. The museum’s current static exhibition was developed in 1995 from Lester’s personal collection of photographs, researched material and memorabilia. Likewise, Lester developed the traveling Negro Leagues exhibit that has been showcased each year since 1993 at Major League Baseball’s FanFest during All-Star Week. A similar exhibit, “Discover Greatness,” owned by the NBLM, has been presented at various museums nationally since 1999. He left the NLBM in 1995 to start NoirTech Research Inc., combining his expertise in research and technology to strategically track the African-American experience.
From 2000-04, Lester was under contract with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., to do a comprehensive study of African-American baseball from the Civil War through the mid-1950s. Findings of the project, titled “Out of the Shadows,” are to be released in the near future, with several publications expected. In 2006 he served on the Special Negro Leagues Committee for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, selecting a record 17 new Negro Leagues players, executives and managers.
As a dedicated advocate for equal rights, Lester actively campaigns for retroactive pensions for worthy Negro Leagues veterans and raises funds to purchase headstones to be placed on the unmarked graves of athletes. He was instrumental in securing retroactive Major League Baseball pensions for more than 85 former Negro Leagues players, while involving approximately 150 former players in MLB Properties’ royalty program from the sale of Negro Leagues caps, jerseys and related apparel in the early 1990s. In 2006 he successfully campaigned with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and the Satchel Paige family for Congress to designate May 2 as Negro Leaguers Recognition Day.
Lester remains in contact with more than 200 former Negro Leagues players and their families. His research library, amassed over more than 35 years, includes thousands of vintage photographs, an array of video sports documentaries, personal audio interviews and more than 78,000 clipping files on black athletes, along with the only known statistical database of batting and pitching records for approximately 3,600 Negro Leagues players from the turn of the century until the breaking of the race barrier in 1947.
Lester is listed as a contributing researcher to more than 100 books on African-American history and has served as a consultant on numerous sports documentaries with ESPN, PBS and CNN.
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