Chester Isaac Lewis '45

Civil Rights Activist

Chester Lewis was once described in The Wichita Eagle as “a leader of national stature...someone who should be in all textbooks on civil rights.” Mr. Lewis certainly earned his reputation as a champion for people of color, not only in the Wichita community but across the nation as well. He was born in Hutchinson and graduated from Hutchinson High School in 1945. Although Mr. Lewis left this world in 1990, his fight for civil rights will remain an inspiring legacy as we face the challenges of the future.

After graduation, Mr. Lewis served in the U.S. Army for one year with the 1225th Engineer Fire Platoon in Japan. He earned his law degree in 1953 from the University of Kansas and a Juris Doctor degree in 1968. He founded the National Conference of Black Lawyers in 1978, and no doubt helped countless people in his capacity as President of the Wichita Branch of the NAACP from 1955 to 1968. He also served the NAACP at the national level for several years as vice president. His legal work helped end discrimination in several areas as he helped desegregate restaurants, swimming pools, aircraft companies, the Wichita Transportation System, and the Wichita Police Department. Mr. Lewis spent his career helping black families by opening up opportunities through education, jobs, and housing. He initiated the first public sit-in demonstration in Wichita and once obtained the acquittals of 110 civil rights demonstrators at the University of Kansas in 1965.