Oregon AFSCME Council 75 Staff Representative James Hester lost a three-year battle with lung cancer. He passed away peacefully in Portland on Sept. 9. He was 55 years old.
James Reed Hester was born in Tacoma, Wash., on Aug. 14, 1957. His father died when Hester was six, and the family moved to Portland when he was 11. He graduated from Cleveland High School in 1975, and received an associates degree in journalism arts from Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham in 1977.
Hester lived for several years on the Lummi Indian Reservation in Washington, where he helped his in-laws (his sister is married to a tribal council leader) establish the communications department for the government of the Lummi Nation in 1981.
Hester enjoyed a varied professional career. He spent 12 years as a West Coast district manager for Sears & Roebuck, followed by a four-year stint as director of operations for the Portland Beavers baseball team. He spent three years working with an investment firm in Los Angeles, Calif.
In 1997 he returned to Portland and took a police records specialist position with the Portland Police Bureau — a job he intended to keep only a short period while he attended Warner Pacific College to get a degree in business administration. But jobsite issues led him to become a union steward and activist with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 189.
Hester held a variety of positions with Local 189, ultimately becoming the elected president.
In August 2004 he was hired by Oregon AFSCME Council 75, serving primarily as the Local 189 staff rep. He also worked with Oregon AFSCME Executive Director Ken Allen negotiating the first AFSCME contract at the Portland Development Commission.
“James was a great member-leader and then a strong staff person for our members,” Allen said. “He had a strong commitment to making sure members got treated fairly on the job.”
Hester is survived by his mother, Helen; sisters, Barbara Howe and Pam Thomas; brothers, Rick Hester, Scott Hester, and Gary Lichty; and many nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to either the Pongo Fund, Oregon Humane Society, or the American Cancer Society.