Chester Riley Estes
The Life Of Chester Estes
Chester Riley Estes was born northwest of Haleyville, Alabama July 1, 1903. He was baptized by A.D. Dies in 1920. He married his wife Gladys Mae Chastain on August 21, 1921. To this union was born, Evelyn Estelle, born in 1931, and a set of twin boys, Charles Robert and Edward William, September 4, 1936.
He attended David Lipscomb College, the University of Alabama and the Alabama State Teacher's College.
He began preaching in Marion County, Alabama. He preached for the church in Winfield, Alabama. He was there from 1928 until 1937 when he moved to Corinth, Mississippi to work among the good brethren at Foote Street church of Christ. After five years, the family moved to Longview, Texas to preach for the church there. In 1947 they moved to Sheffield, Alabama where he began preaching for the Highland Park church. The family lived in the Shoals area the remainder of his life.
Chester enjoyed writing. He wrote a number of books. His first book, Titus Goes Modern, was his first work in 1940. He followed with other titles including, A Handbook on Biblical Interpretation, Cold Waters For Thirsty Souls, What Is Truth?, A Study of the Holy Spirit, A Study on the Sermon on the Mount, and others. Through the years of his preaching he continued to send reports to the Gospel Advocate of his efforts. He was called upon to preach in many meetings. Most of his meeting work was in Northwest Alabama, however he did make preaching trips to Texas and California. He held on debate. He held one debate. In 1925, while a student at David Lipscomb College, he debated C.C. Clark, a Primitive Baptist. The discussion took place at the Wiley Branch church near his Marion County home. The topics of the discussion included Baptism, Holy Spirit, Apostasy, and the Establishment of the Church.
Chester Estes was one of the first men in the Shoals area to begin a daily radio broadcast. He preached on WJOI in Florence, and WLAY in Sheffield, at 6:30 each morning, and at 7am on Sundays. When away for meetings, other preachers filled in for him.
When thinking of the "big names" in the brotherhood, like H. Leo Boles, B.C. Goodpasture, Willard Collins, etc., the name of Chester Estes seldom arises. They all knew one another and worked together on many occasions. However, depending on where you were in the 1930s through the 1950s, the names could change. In Northwest Alabama and Northeast Mississippi, the name Chester Estes was about as big as they came. Through editing the journal, The Evangelist, a number of years, knowledge of him continued to be strong among those in the Lord's church.
The last years of the life of Chester Estes saw him spending time writing. Included in his works was an autobiography, Faith That Overcomes, The Story of My Life, It has been scanned and is available here. He also authored a translation of the New Testament called, The Better Version of the New Testament.
Gladys Estes passed from this life November 20, 1986. Her body was laid to rest in the old cemetery in Sheffield, Alabama. Chester continued a few more years. In his eighty-ninth year he passed on November 17, 1992. He was laid to rest beside his wife, united in death. The location of their grave is near the entrance of the cemetery, at perhaps the highest point in the Shoals area. From their grave there is a good view of the region around.
Sources; Preacher of Today; Faith That Overcomes, The Story of My Life, by Chester Estes
As I Remember
I remember the first religious book, other than the Bible, to fall into my hands. It was "Jacob's Ladder" by brother E.M. Borden. This was in 1921. At that time I had a burning desire to preach the gospel. I read that book through so many times that I was later almost able to preach some of the sermons in it from memory. At that time I was already married, but had not even completed grammar school. I would make a one-horse sharecrop and run the saw mill in between crops. I remember gathering "the hands," as the workmen were called, under the sawmill at the noon hour, while they ate their lunches, and reading to them from the Bible and discussing it with them. The pay was $1.00 per day. Since I "ran" the mill, I was paid $1.25 per day. The mill hands listened to my reading and discussion of the Bible. I do not know exactly whether it was because I was impressive in what I was trying to do or because they were paid the $1.00 per day. The next book I remember reading, other than the Bible, was "Eunice Lloyd" by brother R.N. Moody. These two books had much to do with "flaming" my desire to "make a preacher." Who is able to determine the good that may come from some good book that one has written; One may live on and on by what he has written.
About this time, I had the opportunity to hear J.D. Tant debate Claud Casey and to later hear Tant through out a meeting in the community. Every morning I would drive by the place where Tant was staying and pick him up and carry him in a buggy to the place of the meeting. I was present the time when he asked the question, "which was the older, Adam or Abraham?" Because of the timidity of the people, no one answered. Brother Tant was to return the next year and conduct a one month's Bible school but when he got back to Texas and wrote in the Firm Foundation that the brethren at that place were so ignorant that they did not know which was older, Adam or Abraham the brethren there cancelled his return the next year, (The congregation where this took place was the White House church of Christ in Marion County,"LEW Don't get the wrong idea that I did not know which was the older. I really did know, but like the others, I simply said nothing. I was so disappointed because he did not return. I wanted to attend that Bible school thinking it would help me to "make a preacher."
About the same time, I heard such men as W.R. Wilcutt, A.D. Dies (Dias), W.R. Gurganus, Charlie Nichols (Brother of Gus) and others, some whom were educated and some who were not. Some of them were "Bible college" preachers and some were not. It seemed to me that the "Bible college" preachers were rated somewhat higher in the estimation of the people of the community. I was trying to preach, but I wanted to be a "Bible college" preacher. The "Bible college" that most of the preachers had attended for a few weeks was the Alabama Christian College at Berry, Alabama, which at that time as I recall, had "gone under."
There were few "regular preachers" and not much "regular preaching" in those days, and when the brethren were through with the "worship"(mostly the Sunday school), I would often call attention to the fact that I wanted to "say a few words," which usually meant an entire hour or more. The faith that overcomes- Chester Estes
-Alabama Restoration Journal, Volume 2 No. 1, February 2, 2007, page 11
On December 26, 1925, Chester Estes, of David Lipscomb College, engaged C. C. Clark in a discussion on the establishment of the church.
Brother Estes took the lead, affirming that the church of Christ was established on the first Pentecost after the death of Christ. In support of this affirmation he used the following scriptures in his first speech: Dan. 2:44; 7:13; Matt. 3:1; Luke 10:11; Matt. 6:10; 16:18; Mark 9:1; Luke 22:18; 19:11; Mark 15:43; Acts 1:4; Rev. 1:9; 2:1; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Cor. 1:1; 15:9; Acts 13:1-14: 27; 11:22; 8:1; 5:11; 2:47.
Clark is a Missionary Baptist. He is ignorant, conceited, egotistical, and even silly. He did not meet a single argument wade by Brother Estes.
This discussion, which was held at Wiley Branch Church, twelve miles southwest of Haleyville, Ala., was scheduled for four days, but on account of the cold weather the speakers put it off until sometime in the summer.
Brother Estes did good work, and the brethren there were well pleased. He made a fine impression for the truth. The discussion will do good. Mr. Ben Howell moderated for Mr. Clark, and the writer served in that capacity for Brother Estes.
BY J. H. STONE, Gospel Advocate, January 28, 1926, p.95
Signature of Chester Estes
Directions To The Grave of Chester R. Estes
Chester and Gladys Estes are buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Sheffield, Alabama. Sheffield makes up part of the Tri-Cities area of North Alabama. From Hwy. 72 in Florence, cross the Oneal Bridge into Sheffield. Head to the traffic light. Turn right on Hatch Blvd. Heading up the hill you will see the cemetery looming in the distance on your left. Enter the cemetery at the main gate and head up the hill. At the pinnacle of the hill, you will see Section 2 on your right. The first grave you see on your right is the Estes plot. Officially it is Section C.2, Graves 190,191.
Gladys M. Estes
July 15, 1902
November 20, 1986
Chester R. Estes
July 1, 1903
November 17, 1992
Photos Taken 02.2011
Courtesy of Scott Harp