Walton, Lester A., 1882-1965

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Lester Aglar Walton enjoyed a multi-faceted career in the entertainment field, as a journalist, American ambassador to Liberia, and civic leader.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1882 he was awarded three honorary degrees: Master of Arts from Lincoln University in Chester, Pa. (1927), LL. D. from Wilberforce University (1945), and the University of Liberia (1958).

Walton began his journalistic career with the "St. Louis Star" in 1902, later wrote for the "New York Age" and "New York World." He also served as arbitrator in a labor dispute between the Newspaper Guild of New York and the "New York Amsterdam News" (1957-1959). Walton's involvement in the entertainment field included his roles as manager of Harlem's Lafayette Theatre and chairman of the Coordinating Council for Negro Performers.

An active Democrat, Walton served as director of publicity of the Colored Division of the Democratic National Campaign Committee in 1924, 1928 and 1932. President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Walton as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Liberia in 1933, a position he held until 1946. Among his accomplishments, he concluded significant treaties between the United States and Liberia, including the terms under which the American government established a United States Army base. He also negotiated with the Liberian government for the construction of a port in Monrovia and concluded commerce, navigation and aviation treaties.

Walton concluded his career as commissioner for the Commission on Intergroup Relations, a New York City agency founded in 1955 which later became known as the Commission on Human Rights. Until his retirement in 1964, Walton worked with the Commission in the fields of civil rights and civil liberties, especially fair housing practices. His death occurred in 1965.

From the description of Lester Walton Papers, 1905-1977. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122517362

Lester Aglar Walton, journalist, diplomat and civic leader, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, April 20, 1882 of working class parents and was a graduate of Sumner High School in St. Louis. He held three honorary degrees: Master of Arts from Lincoln University in Chester, Pa., 1927, LL.D. from Wilberforce University, 1945, and the University of Liberia, 1958. In 1912 he married Gladys Moore, daughter of Fred A. Moore, publisher of the New York Age. They had two daughters.

Walton began his many faceted career as a golf writer on the St. Louis Star. From 1902 to 1906 he was general assignment and court reporter, and as such was the first African American to write for a daily paper in St. Louis. In 1906 he left St. Louis and moved to New York City, and by 1908 he was manager and theatrical editor for the New York Age (1908-1914 and again from 1917-1919). From 1922 to 1931 Walton was a special writer for the New York World. When the World folded he became feature writer for the New York Herald Tribune (1931), but resigned when the newspaper refused to give him a by-line. He returned to the New York Age in 1932 to serve as the newspaper's associate editor. During his journalistic career Walton became interested in world affairs and several of his special writing assignments were abroad. The most noteworthy of these were as news correspondent at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 and at sessions of the International Liberian Committee in 1933. Walton also served as arbitrator in a labor relations dispute between the Newspaper Guild of New York and the New York Amsterdam News (1957-1959). He was a member of the Society of the Silurians, an association of journalists.

During the late teens and early 1920's, Walton was active in the entertainment field. He worked as the manager of Harlem's Lafayette Theater from 1914 to 1916 and from 1919 to 1921, and was the dramatic lyricist for the theater. During World War I, as a member of the Military Entertainment Service, he supervised theatricals among African American soldiers. Walton later served as Vice President of the Negro Actor's Guild and in the 1950's was chairman of the Coordinating Council for Negro Performers. This group was dedicated to promoting African Americans in every branch of the entertainment field. During his chairmanship Walton strove for greater integration of African Americans in television and radio. Walton wrote a few songs in his career, commencing in 1905 and ending in 1956 when he wrote a song entitled “Welcome to New York,” dedicated to Mayor Robert F. Wagner. Also, he wrote the song “Jim Crow Has Got to Go,” a rallying song for civil rights workers in the 1950's.

Walton's political career began in 1913 when he launched a movement, with the assistance of the Associated Press, for the spelling of the word Negro with a capital “N.” An active Democrat, he served as director of publicity of the Colored Division of the Democratic National Campaign Committee in 1924, 1928 and 1932.

President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Walton as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Liberia in 1933, a position he held until 1946. Among his accomplishments, he concluded significant treaties between the United States and Liberia, including the terms under which the American government established a United States Army base. Walton also negotiated with the Liberian government for the construction of a port in Monrovia and concluded commerce, navigation and aviation treaties.

As a longstanding member of the Harlem community, Walton sought to make local improvements for African Americans. He was one of the original members of the Commission on Intergroup Relations, a New York City agency founded in 1955 which later (1961) became known as the Commission on Human Rights. Under Mayor Wagner, this Commission worked in the fields of civil rights and civil liberties, especially fair housing practices. Walton retired from this volunteer post in 1964. His death occurred on October 19, 1965. His wife, Gladys, died in approximately 1977.

From the guide to the Lester Walton papers, 1905-1977, (The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Walton, Lester A., 1882-1965. Lester Walton Papers, 1905-1977. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Walton, Lester A., 1882-1965. Lester A. Walton papers, 1935-1946 Detroit Public Library, Detroit Main Library
creatorOf Richardson, Willis, 1889-1977. Willis Richardson papers, 1910-1974. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Willis Richardson papers, 1910-1974 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Cook, Will Marion. Mammy : my song to my mother / words by Lester A. Walton ; music by Will Marion Cook. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Lester Walton papers, 1905-1977 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Barclay, Edwin, 1883- person
associatedWith Cook, Will Marion. person
associatedWith Coordinating Council for Negro Performers. corporateBody
associatedWith Firestone, Harvey Samuel, 1898- person
associatedWith Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Jack, Hulan E person
associatedWith Jack, Hulan E. person
associatedWith Jones, Thomas Jesse, 1873-1950. person
associatedWith Lafayette Theatre (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Minton, Henry M. d. 1946. person
associatedWith Newspaper Guild of New York. corporateBody
associatedWith New York (N.Y.). City Commission on Human Rights. corporateBody
associatedWith O'Neal, Frederick, 1905-1992. person
associatedWith Richardson, Willis, 1889-1977. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945. person
associatedWith Swope, Herbert Bayard, 1882-1958. person
associatedWith Tubman, William V. S., 1895-1971. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
Liberia
New York (State)--New York
Liberia
United States
Harlem (New York, N.Y.)
Harlem (New York, N.Y.)
Liberia
Subject
African American journalists
African American newspapers
Diplomatic and consular service, American--Liberia
African American diplomats
Ambassadors
Theatrical managers
African Americans--Civil rights
Ambassadors--United States
Theatrical managers--New York (State)--New York
African American newspapers--New York (State)--New York
Diplomatic and consular service, American
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1882

Death 1965

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