(BCPM) Opening McLennan County Commissioner Lester Gibson’s Papers

This blog post was written by former undergraduate student Alexis Reese and Processing Archivist Thomas DeShong.

Photo 1: Lester Gibson in front of the McLennan County Courthouse

Earlier in the spring semester, the Baylor Collections of Political Materials (BCPM) finished the processing of the Lester Gibson papers and opened the collection for research. This was the culmination of several years of labor in assistance with the Lester Gibson family and the late County Commissioner Patricia Chisolm-Miller’s office.


Photo 3: Issue of Gibson’s newspaper, Grass Roots, featuring article on Baylor graduate Robert Gilbert

Lester Gibson served in the US Navy during the Vietnam War. Returning home, he graduated from Baylor University in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. In the 1970s and 1980s, Gibson edited two newspapers – The Bottom Line and Grass Roots – to shed light on civil rights issues in the area. He then entered politics in 1988 when he won the city council seat for District 1 in Waco. Gibson went on to become the first African American elected to the role of McLennan County Commissioner for Precinct 2 in 1990.

Photo 2: Lester Gibson atop a map of the McLennan County precincts

As a McLennan County Commissioner, Gibson oversaw issues such as the maintenance of roads, bridges, and buildings, while also uplifting his community by tackling issues of inequality and providing programs and resources for youth. He worked with the Waco Chamber of Commerce to aid in event planning and economic development. Gibson also worked with the Waco Housing Authority to help those struggling with matters involving their home.

Apart from his political duties, Gibson attended many social events and volunteered with several organizations. These included Keep Waco Beautiful, local 4-H groups, and the Walk to Cure Diabetes. Gibson co-founded the Texas Organization of Black County Commissioners, an organization founded to create a space for African American county commissioners to gather and collaborate.

With passionate drive and dedication, Commissioner Gibson served in that role for 28 years, making him the longest-serving county commissioner in McLennan County history. Just a few years following retirement in 2018, Lester Gibson died on June 17, 2022.

Photo 4: Coque Gibson (left) with daughter Izegbe (middle) and son Travis (right) preparing to open the collection

On Friday, March 8, 2024, BCPM held a formal ceremony at the Hurd Welcome Center for members of Gibson’s family and the general public to honor the work Commissioner Gibson did for McLennan County. Former Representative Chet Edwards and two of Lester Gibson’s children – Izegbe Lee and Travis Gibson – addressed the audience to share fond memories of Commissioner Gibson. Lester’s widow, Coque, cut the ceremonial ribbon opening the collection to the public.

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