Chester H. Ferguson
Chester H. Ferguson was a native of Georgia, born in July, 1908, to parents who were also natives of Georgia. He lived a remarkable life and had a remarkable impact on the Tampa Bay area and the State of Florida.
“He was always brilliant on his feet. He spoke in complete sentences always, without prepared text. He was never caught off guard. Extemporaneous speeches by Chester Ferguson were worth recording, his vocabulary, his soft Southern accent contributory, as even was his stately, always erect bearing and spotless business dress.” wrote Tom McEwen in an article on the front page of The Tampa Tribune on March 6, 1983.
He attended the University of Alabama and Mercer College. In 1930, he received his law degree from the University of Florida and immediately after graduation, moved to Florida to join the law firm, which was then known as Macfarlane, Pettingill, Macfarlane & Fowler. In 1935 he became managing partner of the firm which later became Macfarlane, Ferguson, Allison & Kelly and is now known as Macfarlane Ferguson & McMullen.
In 1939, he married Louise Lykes in Tampa. They were married for 44 years and had two children. Their daughter, Stella Ferguson Thayer, is now a shareholder of her father’s law firm. Howell Lykes Ferguson, their son, is an attorney and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lykes Bros. Inc.
When World War II started, Mr. Ferguson was a first lieutenant in the Officers Reserve Corps. He entered the U.S. Air Force in February 1942, and served until February 1946. During his service, he was promoted to Colonel and was awarded the Bronze Star, Air Medal, the Legion of Merit and a Chinese Hero medal.
Mr. Ferguson had a long and distinguished community service record. Governor Bob Graham called him “an authentic giant of Florida.” He served for 14 years as a member of the Board of Regents of the State University System of Florida, including 2 terms as Chairman, while the university system grew from 3 to 9 universities. The University of South Florida’s business school was named in honor of Chester Ferguson BEFORE his death, a very unusual honor that took a special act of the legislature. On several occasions he was listed as one of the most powerful men in the State of Florida. Just prior to his death In 1983, he was named Outstanding Citizen of the Year by the Tampa Civitan Club for his role in raising $10 million for the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
He was Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Lykes Bros. Inc., Peoples Gas System, First National Bank of Florida and First Florida Banks, Inc., the largest bank holding company on Florida’s West Coast in the early 1980s. He also served as vice chairman of the board of the LTV Corporation of Dallas and vice-president of Lykes-Pasco Packing Company and Eastern Oil Company. He was a director of the Exchange National Bank, Bank of Clearwater, Lewis State Bank in Tallahassee, The American Ship Building Company, Tampa Shipyards, Inc. and Lykes Brothers Insurance Agency. He was also a director of the Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Y.M.C.A., a vestryman at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, a trustee of the University of Tampa and a member of all bar associations, the American Legion, Rotary Club, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, Merrymakers Club, University Club, Air Force Association, Phi Delta Theta fraternity and Blue Key honorary society.
Chester Ferguson passed away in March, 1983.