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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

GILLESPIE, CHESTER K.

GILLESPIE, CHESTER K.

GILLESPIE, CHESTER K. (4 Apr. 1897-22 Mar. 1985), lawyer and Republican politician known as "Mr. Civil Rights," and part of Cleveland's black community agitating for immediate integration, was born in Home City, Ohio, to Warren and Lulu Trail Gillespie. The family moved to Cleveland about 1909. After attending Ohio State University, Gillespie earned a law degree from Baldwin-Wallace College Law School in 1920. He was assistant law director for Cleveland in 1921 and soon became the leading civil-rights attorney in Cleveland, bringing antidiscrimination suits against theater, restaurant, and amusement park owners.

Many of Gillespie's antidiscrimination suits were unsuccessful, influencing him as he served 3 terms in the Ohio general assembly (1933-34, 1939-40, 1943-44). He sponsored legislation extending Ohio's civil-rights law to prohibit discrimination in retail establishments, and also included in the liquor law a provision making racial discrimination grounds for revoking a liquor license. He assisted Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio; was president of the local NAACP (1936-37); and along with fellow attorney CLAYBORNE GEORGE, led the fight for downtown office space for black lawyers and other professionals in the 1930s and 1940s.

Gillespie was a member of the Republican State Central Committee and a delegate to national conventions (1948, 1968). He was appointed to the State Board of Education in 1963; later winning election to complete that term. Gillespie retired from law and politics in 1971 and moved to Los Angeles. On 27 Sept. 1924, he married Dorothy Thomas. Both were members of the CLEVELAND COUNCIL ON WORLD AFFAIRS.


Chester K. Gillespie Scrapbooks, WRHS.