John R. Lester was born June 5, 1942, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina to parents Polly Woodall and Lonnie H. Lester. He received his B.A. degree from the University of South Carolina in 1964, where he was a member of Gamma Nu Chapter of Sigma Chi. He received his J.D. from the UofSC School of Law in 1967.
He volunteered to serve in Vietnam, where he served four years active duty as a legal officer in the Air Force, followed by 16 years in the Air Force Reserve, retiring as a Colonel. He later served as Commander of the Joint Services Detachment, S.C. Military Department, retiring with the rank of Major General.
From 1971 until his move to Myrtle Beach, John practiced law in Columbia, opening his own law firm in 1976, where he represented debtors in over 10,000 bankruptcy cases. Since September 2005, he practiced real estate law at the firm of Lester & Lester, P.A. in Myrtle Beach, with his brother, Dicke Lester.
He was a member of the SC Bar, where he was founding member of the Military & Veterans’ Law Section and served on the Memory Hold the Door Committee; a board member of the State Trial Lawyers Association; vice president of the Air Force Local Reserve Officers Association; president of the SC Bankruptcy Law Association; and City Judge. He was a seminar speaker for the Association of Bankruptcy Lawyers, SC League of Savings Institutions, and the SC Bar. He was an approved attorney for the Chicago Title Insurance Company and the North American Title Insurance Company.
John was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. District Court of South Carolina, Supreme Court of South Carolina, and the Military Court of Appeals.
He has been honored with the following decorations and awards: Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Air Force Overseas Short Tour Ribbon, Air Force Overseas Long Tour Ribbon, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Air Force Training Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Unit, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Device, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, SC Military Department Meritorious Service Medal, SC Merit Ribbon, SC Achievement Ribbon, and the SC Service Ribbon.
He was awarded by the SC governor with the state’s highest community service honor, the Order of the Silver Crest. He received the Billy Robinson Public Service Award by the SC Bankruptcy Law Association and the SC Bar Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award.
John was a member and served as chairman of the board of Trenholm Road United Methodist Church in Columbia; he served as president of the United Way of the Midlands; and vice president of Town Theatre. He had a commercial pilot’s license, was a certified SCUBA diver, held a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, served as a judge and referee for amateur boxing, won numerous awards at the SC State Fair for his wines, was chair and past president of the local chapter of the American Wine Society, and was a certified barbecue judge. John was a member and Ambassador of the Chaine Des Rotisseurs des Etats-Unis.
John R. Lester died on May 9, 2016. His wife of 40 years, Jane B. Mellette Lester passed away in 2020. He is survived by a daughter, Lydia M. Dodd (Mike); a son, John R. Lester, II; brothers, Ken Lester (Nell), Dicke Lester (Evelyn); Lon Lester (Laura); a sister, Hon. Flora L. Vinson (Jay); and a granddaughter, Anna M. Dodd.