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the prince of fairwood

by John Arlon Hawke

HE STARTED PREACHING the same year the Brooklyn Dodgers won their first World Series—1955. He was a 25-year-old converted drunk with piercing brown eyes who stood six foot three in his socks. He came to the pulpit with an eighth-grade education, a voice like a foghorn, on fire to do something for Jesus. The tall, mountain boy from East Tennessee set his size 12 B foot behind the Gospel plow and never looked back.

Lester Horton turned 75 last March with 40 years of pastoring and 50 years of preaching under his belt. He and his wife Lottie have been pulling a double harness for 55 years.   

He tells anyone who will listen, “I met Jesus at midnight in Baltimore, Maryland, on Thanksgiving in 1953. I came home from a bar after giving away my last $5 and found Lottie on her knees praying. There were no groceries in the house. I asked her to pray for me and was converted while she prayed.”

40 Years at Fairwood

Lester Horton took his salvation and his call to preach seriously. The sandy-haired preacher with blazing eyes had no back-up in him when it came to evangelism and soul-winning. What he lacked in formal education, he made up in zeal, holy living, and compassion for the lost.

Two years after his conversion, Lester found his life’s work—pastoring Fairwood FWB Church in Fairfax, Virginia. After eight months as associate pastor, the church took a chance and called him as pastor in July 1957. That was the right decision, because Lester stayed 40 years, leading the congregation to build a 600-seat auditorium. Before he retired, 32 men answered the call to preach under his ministry.

The innovative pastor started a weekly radio program on W-CKW in Warrenton, Virginia. Every Sunday for 39 years, people tuned in to hear the “Light of Life” program.

Service Beyond Fairwood

Lester thought starting churches was the best way to change communities, so he helped organize 22 new churches and preached revivals in 24 states. In 1957, he wrote and published his testimony in a pamphlet titled, “A Product of Grace.”

The denomination called Lester’s name. He served 20 years as moderator of the Maryland State Association, 30 years as state promotional secretary and General Board member. He chaired the state Home Missions Board and logged 20 years on the Northern Virginia Quarterly Meeting’s Ordaining Council. For more than 20 years, he edited the Maryland state paper. He served on the boards of two colleges—Gateway Bible College and Southeastern FWB College. For six years, he has been the chaplain at a nursing facility near Stephens City, Virginia.

Retirement Comes to Fairwood

Fairwood FWB Church (along with Lester) contributed to his retirement account with the Board of Retirement for 20 years. After Lester retired, he took a lifetime annuity that pays the mortgage each month.            

“Start early with the Board of Retirement,” Lester says. “A little now makes all the difference when it’s time to retire.”

Exit Fairwood Laughing

Lester still chuckles remembering a mishap the night he preached to 6,000 people at the 1983 FWB national convention. He removed his sermon outline from his Bible and reviewed it one more time. As the last song ended, Lester opened his Bible to discover that his sermon started on page two. Page one was still on the 14th floor of his hotel. He gulped, wrote three words on a sheet of paper, and asked God to take over.







©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists