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Chester I. Lewis papers

Call Number: RH MS 558


Chester I. Lewis (1928-1990), a Hutchinson, Kansas native, became a Wichita-based attorney and leader in the modern Civil Rights movement. This collection of his papers primarily reflects his leadership in the NAACP "Young Turks" organization and other civil rights efforts.


  • Creation: 1948 - 1991


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Chester I. Lewis

Chester Isaac Lewis, Jr., a leader of the modern civil rights movement at both state and national levels, was born in 1928 and raised in Hutchinson, Kansas. Lewis's father, Chester I. Lewis, Sr., was editor of the African American newspaper The Hutchinson Blade, which attacked local practices of racial segregation. His mother, Edna (Anderson) Lewis was a teacher. They raised three other children in addition to Chester: Alfred Anderson, John Henry, and Mary Ellen (Lewis) London.

After graduating from Hutchinson High School and serving in World War II, Lewis attended the University of Kansas where he received an undergraduate degree in 1951 and a law degree in 1953. By 1955, he was a lawyer in Sedgwick County, Kansas, and an active member of the Wichita chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Having successfully chaired the local chapter's Legal Redress Committee, Lewis became president of the organization in 1956. As leader of the Wichita NAACP, he volunteered his legal expertise to foster racial integration of the city's police and fire departments and its public schools. He also lobbied for the passage of the Wichita Fair Housing Ordinance.

For more than a decade, Lewis was an active leader of the local, state, and national NAACP. In 1962, he was among the leaders of the "Young Turks," a national movement within the NAACP that sought to shift the organization's traditional focus of seeking change through court action and legislation to include strategies of non-violent protest and direct action. The movement also advocated greater NAACP emphasis on the issues of poverty experienced by African Americans in the urban north. When the "Young Turks" movement failed to reform the NAACP, Mr. Lewis resigned from the organization in 1968, endorsed the rising Black Power Movement, and continued to lead the struggle for African American civil rights. In 1983, he was one of four lawyers who successfully led a class action lawsuit on behalf of African Americans who had experienced racial discrimination as train porters.

Chester Lewis passed away in 1990.


3.75 Linear Feet (6 boxes + 3 oversize boxes)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The Chester I. Lewis Papers are arranged in 11 series: Personal Papers, Professional Papers, NAACP, NAACP Young Turks Organization, Other Organizations, Subject Files, Publications, Newspaper Clippings, Scrapbooks, Photographs, and Interviews.

Subject Files and Publications include material regarding civil rights and the African-American experience. Newspaper Clippings and Scrapbooks include complementary subject material and also document Lewis's professional career. The Interviews series includes interviews conducted in 2008 regarding the Dockum Drug Store sit-in in Wichita, Kansas 50 years previously. Arrangement of folder content is chronological.

Photographs from the collection are located at RH MS-P 558. Oversize items from the collection have been physically separated for preservation and are located at RH MS Q89 and RH MS R72.

Physical Location

RH MS 558

Physical Location

RH MS 1373

Physical Location

RH MS-P 558, RH MS-P 558(f)

Physical Location


Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Chester I. Lewis

Guide to the Chester I. Lewis Collection
Chester I. Lewis papers
Finding aid prepared by adm and sc, 2004. Finding aid encoded by adm and sc, 2004. Finding aid revised by skt, 2010; eear, 2013; awo, 2015; ce, 2016; mwh, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Chester I. Lewis papers, Kansas Collection, RH MS 558, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States