Award-Winning Writer Terrell Lester Honored by Coaches
By D. FORREST CAMERON
Editor and Publisher
LIFETIME CONTRIBUTION: Rudy Garcia, left, president of the Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Association, presents Terrell Lester with the Ray Soldan Award for lifetime contribution to Oklahoma high school basketball. The presentation was made during last summer’s high school All-State basketball tournament at the ORU Mabee Center.
GTR Newspapers photo
Veteran Tulsa sports writer Terrell Lester was honored this past summer by the Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Association with the Ray Soldan Award for lifetime contribution to Oklahoma high school basketball.
Lester, who has won numerous awards during his career, served on the Tulsa World staff in various capacities from the mid-1960s into the late 1990s. Though he has covered news and other areas and has written a popular column called “On the Street,” he says that sports is his true love.
Born in Illinois, Lester’s family moved to Tulsa while he was in the seventh grade. He attended Horace Mann and Wilson Junior High Schools and Central High School. He says that during those early years his interest in sports was perked by reading newspapers and magazines.
He says that in the 1950s, when he was a young teenager, it would be routine for he and his father to go to a newsstand on Main Street near Seventh Street, where they would pick up a copy of the Sporting News, at that time known as the “Baseball Bible.” Lester says, “Both of us would read it. We would also listen for years to Harry Caray broadcasting St. Louis Cardinal baseball games.”
Lester says, “I was fascinated with the Sporting News and the Tulsa World sports pages. In 1955, I started saving the Sporting News. At home I would type up headlines with Cardinal players mentioned such as pitcher Ernie Broglio.”
After graduating from Central High School in 1960, he enrolled at the University of Tulsa. He says that upon enrollment he was not sure what to study. “A counselor said I should study chemistry. I remembered that my high school English teacher said ‘you really need to be a writer.’ I decided on journalism.”
While at TU, Lester kept his interest in sports. He says, “At TU, I wrote a big piece on the history of the Sporting News. I was so pleased I sent it to the founder, J. Taylor Spink. He wrote back and said, ‘Thank you!’ I was a freak about baseball. I would go to Tulsa Oilers games (at that time the St. Louis Cardinals top minor league affiliate) and hang around the press box. At TU, every essay was about sports.”
While at TU, Lester studied journalism under professor Tom Wood, a former esteemed Chicago newspaper writer, who later published the “Lost Generation Journal.”
Lester says, “Professor Wood said he would get me a part time job, and he did with Bill Connors of the Tulsa World. It was a true honor to work with such a great sports writer and editor.” (Connors served as sports editor for the Tulsa World from 1959-1995 and was part of the World staff from 1953-2000. He was recognized as Oklahoma Sports Writer of the Year 11 times and entered the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.)
Working at the Tulsa World kept Lester busy. He says, “At first, I covered youth baseball, and in the summer of 1963 I covered Pony and Colt baseball.
“In 1964, Bill Connors offered me a full-time job. I started covering TU. I was just a pup, and at the time I was working along-side great writers, such as Dan Jenkins of Sports Illustrated, Texas sportswriting legend Blackie Sherrod of the Dallas Times Herald as well as Bill Connors.
“Bill liked me. Nothing was so important to me professionally and as important as Bill taking a liking to me.”
Lester says, “I did full-time sports from 1964-1982. During that time, Bill eventually named me assistant sports editor.”
In 1988, Lester started writing his column, “On the Street.” He says, “I wanted to expand my horizons. I went to news and became an editor.”
Lester then served in various capacities at the World in areas such as the Sunday Magazine and working on several popular books.
The award-winning journalist lists his top three moments as a sportswriter.
1. “Any of the U.S. Opens or Tournaments at Southern Hills Country Club were amazing to remember. I interviewed Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, some of the biggest names in sport. I had heard of these people as a child. Spending 15 minutes interviewing Ben Hogan was a thrill of a lifetime.”
2. “The U.S. Women’s Open in 1970 at Muskogee Country Club. It was a national event. I spent a week covering it. The golfers were extraordinary to work with. Patty Berg had grown up with Bud Wilkinson in Minnesota. Donna Capone won it. She was funny and colorful.”
3. “In about my second year, in 1965, Bill sent me to cover an Arkansas football game at War Memorial Stadium. I had never experienced a feeling like the calling of the Hogs that night. The sound of calling the Hogs was beyond anything I had ever heard.”
Terrell Lester continues to write and edit for various publications in the region, including the Greater Tulsa Reporter Newspapers, where he is also Editor at Large. It will be interesting to read his next award-winning article.