Lester Brown,
Man of Reknown

by Rory G. McGlasson

Name:    Lester Brown
Party:     Democrat
Ward:     24th
District:  West Philadelphia; Mantua through Powelton. 3rd Councilmanic.
Division: 17th

He may have retired from his day job, but 24th Democratic Ward leader Lester Brown doesn’t see himself manning his garden or hitting balls on the golf course during his retirement.
His spare time will spent in his beloved 24th Democratic Ward.
Brown, 75, retired as Chief of Staff for Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s City Hall office this month, he said he’s “taking his work ethic into his ward.”
“City Hall room 484 is my mistress. When you work in that room you do nothing else,” Brown said. “You take your entire work home with you. I will be doing a similar job, but working from my home helping my ward now that I’m retired.”
It’s safe to say Lester Brown is a workaholic when it comes to constituent service.
His ward headquarters are located at his home in West Philadelphia.
“I may be retiring from City Hall, but I am not retiring from my ward, added Brown. “There is too much to do. I’m excited to be putting more time and effort in to my ward.”
Brown’s 24th Ward has 17 divisions from Mantua to Powelton.
He’s been its leader for six years, replacing Nate Daniel Clark in 1999.
He was a committeeperson for Clark for 15 years.
He said, “Committee people are not as committed as they once were. You have to encourage them a lot more. It’s tougher to get them on the street and knocking on doors. But we manage to get things done in the 24th.
Before becoming Jannie Blackwell’s chief of staff, Brown worked for Lucien Blackwell.
“You cannot work for Lucien Blackwell and not learn from him. He was a great leader. A real constituent servant. He taught me a lot,” said Brown, who graduated from Georgia State with a degree in communications.
A former journalist, he was the first African-American publicist on Broadway!
Broadway media wasn’t the only first in Lester Brown’s career.
Fittingly, these firsts were called to the attention of his co-workers at City Hall, when a proclamation introduced in City Council was read by its sponsor Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell recently.
The reading marked the end of 18 years of City Council service for the Democratic ward veteran.
Brown was born during the 1920’s near Savannah, GA., where he learned the harsh racist reality of Jim Crow laws. He survived that period to begin his career in journalism at the early age of 16. He became the first black youth to host a radio show called “Negro History,” which aired on WTOC, a CBS affiliate. Later he moved to New York where he worked as a reporter for the Ban Black Audio News, then on Broadway.
During the 70’s he began his career in community service working as a youth organizer for the Parents Union in the Philadelphia Public Schools and reorganized the Student Union. He then became a board member of the ASPIRA Advisory Council. In 1979 he taught Community Organizing at Temple University.
In the 80’s, he became the executive director of Mantua Community Planners, and during that tenure donated nine houses to members of that community through the Remove Blight Program.
Brown says he would like to teach people how to use the new electronic voting machines, because his constituents have trouble working the machines.
He said, “People cannot operate the machines properly and we get zeros at the end of our vote counts. I have to wait for a count from Delaware Ave. I encourage people to go to the election seminars. If not, it’s on cable television, too. I go and tell every Election Board member about these seminars.”
When Lester Brown relaxes he finds himself listening to his favorite music…jazz. Brown is a regular at the Zanzibar Blue jazz club.
He estimates it costs “about $10,000 at least or more” to run his ward on Election Day.
He is planning a fundraiser leading up to the General Election in November.
His 18 years as Chief of Staff for Councilwoman Blackwell has earned him “the admiration and respect of everyone in city government.” Councilwoman Blackwell noted, “His presence will be sorely missed.”
Good news for his ward constituents who will see more of him now he’s retired.
“I have no intention of steeping down as ward leader.”
Expect Lester Brown to jazz up his ward now that he has the spare time. Brown will seek re-election in 2006.