By Steve Reed
SELMA — Former Mayor Charles Hester has been named grand marshal for the 2018 Selma Railroad Days parade. The parade is 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 6 in uptown Selma.
Selma Parks and Recreation Director Joe Carter announced Hester’s selection on Friday.
“The Selma Railroad Days Committee is pleased and honored to announce Mr. Charles Hester as the 2018 grand marshal for this year’s festival,” said Carter. “Mr. Hester has been a longtime business owner and civic leader in our town.”
Hester said he was surprised when he was notified.
“It’s quite an honor to be selected,” said Hester. “I go back to 1978 when I was chairman for the second annual Railroad Days.”
Back in those days, the now-defunct Selma Merchants Association organized the festival. Hester said it was different in those days.
“One year, we had dancers scheduled in the parking lot of the Selma Union Depot,” said Hester. “It was nothing but a gravel parking lot and the dancers had nowhere to perform. Tom Turnage, longtime Selma resident, built them a platform right on the spot.”
At another early festival, Hester recalled recognizing Miss North Carolina.
“We didn’t have a plaque or certificate, so we gave her two hot dogs from Short’s Grill,” said Hester. “When I presented them, the hot dogs slipped out of the buns and she ended up with a nice ketchup stain on her gown. She left hurriedly because she had another appearance and wasn’t very happy.”
A Greensboro native, Hester attended Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) on a basketball scholarship. That’s where he met his future wife, Barbetta Godwin.
The Hesters were married on Oct. 26, 1957. They will celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary this year.
Hester, like his father, joined the U.S. Marine Corps. He trained at Quantico and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He then came back to marry Barbetta.
They went to Dillon, South Carolina, and got married. “The total cost of the wedding was only $20 and we got a free oil change while we got married,” said Hester.
The Hesters have three grown children, Chuck, Ron and Melissa.
Hester’s military career took him to many places including Vietnam and Cuba. Barbetta Hester accompanied him to Cuba.
She returned to Selma in 1975. Hester, now a lieutenant colonel, was stationed at Marine headquarters in Washington. He would drive back and forth to Selma on the weekends. He came back home to Selma in November 1977.
When he returned home, Hester and Barbetta Hester’s brother ran Brad’s Red & White grocery store in Selma.
Barbetta Hester’s father dabbled in real estate. Hester said he served on every community board one could imagine.
In 1978, Hester Properties was born. Hester was the president and his wife was the office manager. There are several buildings in uptown Selma that bear his company’s name.
“We built 60 group homes for the mentally retarded, built 22 post offices and had buildings throughout the state,” Hester said.
Hester entered politics in 2005 and served as Selma mayor for three terms. The Hesters are active members of Selma Baptist Church.