In 1905, more than 100 present and former staff members of The Sun celebrated Chester’s 25 years as managing editor. The New York Times reported, “Sun owner William M. Laffan … started a volley of cheering and applause by saying: ‘There was never a more valuable man in the newspaper business from my point of view than Mr. Lord.’ ”
He was beloved by those who worked with and for him, in part because of the atmosphere in the workplace. At The Sun, office politics was non-existent, and every section of the newspaper was considered equally important. Not so in the offices of Pulitzer and others, where internal competition was encouraged, leading to distrust and bad feelings among employees.
Nice Guys Finish Last goes the old adage, but not in this case. Chester Lord was a nice guy who was at the top of his game for decades. In all that time, no one could cite a single instance where he had belittled any employee. His calm, caring demeanor was evident during a crisis, but also in everyday life on the job. Around the city, he became affectionately known as “Boss Lord.”
In 1897, Chester was named to the Board of Regents, which oversees education in New York State. When the board was reduced in 1904, he stepped down, but was widely lauded as a nominee again in 1909 and returned to service.
In 1912, The Sun Alumni Association, featuring editors from Philadelphia to Alaska, celebrated Lord’s 40 years at the newspaper. A year later, Chester resigned, noting that it was time to leave, but that he had enjoyed, among other things, covering and playing a role in 11 presidential elections.
In his honor, 175 alumni attended a breakfast at the Vanderbilt Hotel. Employees and alumni, young and old, sang his praises―in one case, literally, when a group of reporters chirped:
Who was it taught Charles Dana how to write his mother tongue?
Who was it taught reporters news, when news-grabbing was young?
Who was it smells a story out? (The answer must be roared.)
’Tis the King of all good Bosses, men, no other than Boss Lord.
And so through all the coming years we’ll mold ourselves on you.
The friend and boss of young and old, to you we’ll e’er be true.
So here we meet to drink a health and you we now look toward,
We drain the glass and loudly sing, Good health to you, Boss Lord.
Corny, yes, but they cared enough for Lord to do it. The decrepit armchair that had sat for so long in his news office, a seat that held hundreds of applicants and thousands of visitors over the years, was tracked down, refurbished, and given to Chester to enjoy in his retirement.
He remained busy with work on the Board of Regents, and was also a popular lecturer. The Press Club of New York introduced him as “one of the biggest figures in newspaper work in the country.”
He was also a charter member of the Lotos Club, founded in 1870 and described as one of the oldest literary clubs in the country. Guests at their legendary dinners were luminaries from the worlds of art, education, business, and politics. Among the members and guests were Ulysses S. Grant, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Teddy Roosevelt, Samuel Clemens, and Andrew Carnegie. Clemens (Mark Twain) and others were counted among Lord’s friends. Chester served as president of the Lotos Club from 1918–23.
In 1901, a book titled Speeches at the Lotos Club was organized by three men, including Lord, and in 1922, Chester’s own book, The Young Man and Journalism, was released by Macmillan & Company.
In 1918, another book, The Story of The Sun, cited some of Chester’s accomplishments in glowing terms. “He has been a great judge of men. His discernment has been little short of miraculous. Calm, dispassionate … Lord got about him a staff that has been regarded by newspapermen as the most brilliant in the country. … until the latter days of July 1914, New York City was the news center of the world so far as American newspapers were concerned. … In the years of Lord and Clarke [night editor Selah Clarke], more than a billion copies of The Sun went out containing news stories written by men whom Lord had hired and whose work had passed beneath the hand of Clarke.”
Chester continued an active life until 1933, when failing kidneys led to his death on August 1. At the time, he was still chairing meetings as the Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents. An excerpt from the board’s statement expressed their sense of loss:
“The influence of Chester S. Lord can never die. As a writer and editor, he has raised the tone of American thought and action; as a regent, he has greatly promoted the cause of public education and brought enriched opportunities to thousands of young people; and as a public servant and leader in civic affairs, he has lifted three generations to nobler ideals and loftier achievements. We admire him as a publicist, we are grateful to him as an educational director, and we shall always love him as a devoted associate and friend.”
Well said, and a nice sendoff for a man of high ideals.
Photo: NY Times headline (1913)