Allen Hester, President & CEO of the Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce, died Friday, February 3 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, Holly Finley Hester, son Andrew Hester (Karen) of Jackson TN, daughter Sara Hester of Murray, KY, mother June Strickland Hester, brother Howard Hester, and Sister Paula Jacquez, all of Memphis. He was preceded in death by his father William A. Hester, Sr., and a brother, John Hester. Mr. Hester is survived by two grandchildren, Evelyn and Sloan Allen Hester.
Mr. Hester was born in Memphis on June 25, 1951, the oldest of four siblings. He attended Oakhaven High School, graduating in 1969. He enrolled at what was then Memphis State University in 1969. He left college in the early 70's to pursue his lifelong interest in music; returned in the late 70's, graduating in 1980 with a degree in Journalism.
He began his reporting career in 1981 with the West Memphis Evening Times, moving quickly to become editor of the Germantown News in late 1982. After three years, Hester joined the staff of the Memphis Center City Commission as a marketing and communications manager for two years before leaving to help start a new weekly news publication in eastern Shelby County called the Shelby Sun Times.
After three years, Hester joined the staff of the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce, where he rose from communications manager in 1992 to Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications by 2001. In January of 2002, he left Memphis to assume new duties as President/CEO of the Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce, where he remained for 15 years, serving the community with distinction. During his 15-year tenure in Dyersburg, Hester helped create over 2,500 new manufacturing jobs, raised over $3 million for economic and community development, increased chamber membership to over 500 members, and helped recruit industries such as Nortek, NSK Steering, Briggs & Stratton, Dot Foods and Develey Mustard & Condiments to the area, as well as several major expansions of existing industries.
Throughout his professional life, Hester always strove to improve his skillset through continuous education. In February 2001, Hester earned the national Accreditation in Public Relations title from the Public Relations Society of America, and was active in the Memphis PRSA Chapter for the next ten years. In June 2000, he graduated from the Institute for Organizational Management at the University of Georgia, a national training program for Chamber of Commerce managers.
Upon arrival in Dyersburg, Hester began a long series of professional roles in various organizations across the state, including the WestStar regional leadership class at UT-Martin, 2003. He was also a board member of the Tennessee Industrial Development Council from 2003-2005. He became a Certified Chamber Executive (CCE) through the American Chamber of Commerce Executives Association in 2005. He served on the board of the Tennessee Economic Partnership from 2004 to 2009, serving as chairman in 2008. In 2010, he earned the coveted Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) designation from the International Economic Development Council, becoming one of only about 150 people nationwide who hold both a CCE and a CEcD. Hester also was elected to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Executives board of directors and served as its president 2012-2013. He served two terms on the Tennessee Economic Development Council representing West Tennessee, as well as a term on the United Way of West Tennessee board from 2010-2016, becoming chairman of the Dyer County campaign in 2011. He served on the WestStar Board of Trustees 2008-2011, the Local Workforce Board Area 12 from 2002 to 2011, and was a member of the Dyersburg Kiwanis Club. Most recently, he was recognized as the Distinguished Man of the Year for 2016 by the Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce.
During his tenure, both in Memphis and in Dyersburg, the chambers won numerous awards for communications excellence from the American Chamber of Commerce Executives Association.
Beginning in junior high school, Hester had a deep and abiding love of music, and became an accomplished musician who played several instruments, primarily guitar and harmonica. He worked all over the Memphis area and traveled the country in popular dance and show bands, including the Natchez Band, Kuda Brown, The Hurricanes, The Distraxshuns and the Silver City Band. During his time in Dyersburg, he found time to perform with a local group called Second Opinion, and often played solo on guitar and harmonica at various venues in and around Dyersburg. Earlier in his career, he wrote music profiles, feature stories, technical columns, and record reviews for Memphis publications. His work was featured in the Memphis Flyer, Memphis Magazine, where he was music editor, and a national publication called Creem, where he wrote a technical column on recent trends in music manufacturing.
The family requests that memorials be made to the Dyer County Community Cancer Fund, P.O. Box 1055, Dyersburg, TN 38025, or to First United Methodist Church Music Ministry.
The family will receive friends from 5pm to 7pm on Friday, February 10th in the Dyersburg First United Methodist Church Sanctuary to celebrate the life of Allen Hester. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, February 11th at 2pm in the FUMC Sanctuary, conducted by Reverend Ed White, with interment to follow in Fairview Cemetery.
Dyersburg Funeral Home
Published by The Commercial Appeal on Feb. 5, 2017.
Sponsored by Dyer County Memorial Gardens - Dyersburg.
Allen was my roommate and dear friend in the early 1970s, while I was in medical school in Memphis. He was a man of compassion, energy, foresight, and good humor. In the 1980s he came to visit me in Hawaii for a wonderful holiday. That was the last time I saw him. Over the years, we had kept up via occasional emails. He did not reply to my last email at Christmas, and today I learned sadly of his passing. I am proud of his legacy, as I know are his family and friends. So long my friend . . . - Lester Road Hog.
March 14, 2019
The Shirley Family send their thoughts and prayers. As youngsters in elementary and high school we were partners. Allen's father, mother, sister and brothers always welcomed me into their family. We both shared our love for music; Allen professionally me as an avocation. Am very proud of his distinguished lifetime achievements and the happiness we shared together in our youth. All the best to the Hester family.
February 16, 2017
I was very sad to learn of Allen's illness and his passing. We were close friends during our Junior High and Senior High years at Oakhaven, but had not stayed in contact recently. I regret not being in touch to visit and to reminisce about the many adventures of our youth.
Allen and his parents were a second family for me, and I will always be grateful for the many hours I spent in the Hester home and for their positive influence. My wonderful memories include camping out and "roaming" in the woods near the haunted Elam Plantation, sleep outs in various backyards, and at the gravel pits off Swinnea Road. Deer camp with Jimmy and Short in the Holly Springs National Forest, "garage band" practices on Bishop's Bridge, and Allen's Dad ferrying us to the Coliseum in the "Red Bomb" to see the Rolling Stones are other highlights of growing up with Allen.
Allen and his parents helped me endure my adolescence with practical advice about so-called teen romance, with life examples of self-reliance, and with lessons on the importance of a sense of humor in face of life's constant ups and downs. I especially value the Hester family fostering my love for the outdoors, for real country music (like Uncle Dave Macon,) for rhythm and blues, and for great old comedy like W C Fields - many things I was not exposed to around the corner on Kenland Drive. Most of all, Allen and his folks embodied true friendship.
I regret not being able to attend the service or visitation, but would like to convey my sincere condolences. I hope to visit with the Memphis relatives soon, if possible.
February 9, 2017
February 7, 2017
February 7, 2017
I met Mr. Hester when Dot Foods was considering Dyersburg as a location for our new distribution center. He was a wonderful representative of the Dyersburg community and was one of the reasons we ultimately selected Dyersburg. After opening in Dyersburg I got a chance to work with him on several occasions. He was a nice gentleman and a true professional. He will be missed by many. - Tim Loyd, Dot Foods, Inc.
February 6, 2017
Allen was a true gentleman, and I am proud to have known him as a fellow Industrial Developer in the State of Tennessee. Had the opportunity to travel with him on recruiting trips for the State, and attend with him numerous meetings to promote Tennessee to perspective industries, both domestic and international. Regretted to learn of his death. He will be missed.
February 5, 2017
I would like to tell Allen's family that he was loved by everyone. Allen was in the WestStar Class of 2003 and that is when i first met Allen. He served on the board of trustees for three years where he fought hard to keep WestStar in Dyer County and Dyersburg. Allen would also bring his music talents to the WestStar group by playing his different musical instruments at various WestStar events. He formed the first ever WestStar Band in 2009 and played at the 20th Anniversary Celebration in Jackson. Allen was generous in every way. He had a hard time saying no to things. He was involved in too many organizations to mention and served them all very well. He was always strong even when he really couldn't do things he used to do. His trip to Nashville back in the fall, he traveled to give a presentation, always bragging on Dyer County/Dyersburg, at the Governor's State Conference. He could barely get around much less give a presentation, but he did. He did it WELL and was proud to be a West Tennessean. To his family that I haven't met, I will keep you all in my prayers and thoughts. Always know that Allen loved his family dearly and he would not want you to be sad. God Bless you! Virginia Grimes, Coordinator, WestStar Leadership