Reverend Dr. Williams Hunter Hester accepted the call to lead the historic Twelfth Baptist Church in July of 1924. As the 11th pastor, he was a gentleman, scholar, advisor and friend who won the admiration of a wide circle of followers.
A native of Oxford, North Carolina, Reverend Dr. Hester was born on August 19, 1888 to Lee and Emma Hester. He graduated from the Mary Potter School and the North Carolina College for Negroes.
When he and his wife, Beulah H. Shepherd, relocated to Boston, Reverend Dr. Hester pursued graduate studies at Boston University School of Theology and the Andover Newton Theological School.
Under his leadership, Christian Education flourished at Twelfth Baptist Church. Sunday School was revitalized, the Baptist Young People’s Union expanded, Summer Vacation Bible School was initiated along with weekly religious activities and panel discussions.
Although Reverend Dr. Hester and Beulah had no biological children, he placed great emphasis on the youth and the community, opening doors for their advancement not only within the church and community, but also in the world at large.
As a true shepherd, Reverend Dr. Hester endeavored to comfort the bereaved, to encourage the sick and support the needy. In New England, he was regarded as one of the most distinguished and princely leaders of the Christian faith. For his faithful service to so many, Reverend Dr. Hester was unofficially regarded as the “Dean of Boston’s Clergy”. He was a pivotal leader in the denomination services as the President of the Negro Baptist Ministries Conference of Boston and was an active member of the Ordination Council, the Trustee Board of Palmer Memorial Institute, the Executive Board of the New England Baptist Convention and the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention Incorporated.
On May 28, 1945, Reverend Hester was granted an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. A year later, he published One Hundred and Five Years by Faith: A History of Twelfth Baptist Church, Boston, MA.
He mentored and cultivated the growth and development of a host of young seminarians. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pastor Emeritus Reverend Dr. Michael E. Haynes were two of praiseworthy note.
To most, Reverend Dr. Hester was an inspiring and challenging preacher of the Gospel. Pastor Emeritus Haynes stated “He came naturally by the tradition of Black preaching”.
Twelfth Baptist Church found a worthy individual in Reverend Dr. William Hunter Hester upon whose shoulders the mantle of predecessors fell graciously.
He went home to glory on April 20, 1964.