SOUTHBURY - Stephan Lesher, distinguished journalist, author, former U.S. Senate Press Secretary and, in recent years, a frequent contributor to the News-Times Opinion page, died on August 28 at Danbury Hospital. He was 84.
Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1935 to Murray and Lila Lesher, he graduated from James Madison High School in Brooklyn in 1952, attended the University of Missouri for two years, and earned a B.A. in history from Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1962.
At age 19, Lesher headed south to Montgomery, Alabama to begin his career as a journalist. Shortly after his arrival, while working the night shift for the Montgomery Advertiser, he noticed on the city police blotter that a black woman named Rosa Parks had been arrested for refusing to surrender her seat on the bus to a white man. Lesher then proceeded to write the first news account of the now famous incident that triggered the Montgomery bus boycott, a pivotal event in the modern civil rights movement.
Moving north, to Columbus, Georgia and then Winston-Salem, Lesher continued reporting in the south until 1963, when he was awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship, which led to a job in Washington as press secretary to U. S. Senator Birch Bayh, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments. In his memoir, Sen. Bayh credited Lesher as playing a key role in drafting and lobbying through Congress and state legislatures the adoption and ratification of the 25th and 26th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
Returning to journalism in 1969, Lesher joined Newsweek, first in the magazine’s Atlanta and Los Angeles bureaus, and then as chief legal affairs correspondent in Washington, covering the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Office of the Special Prosecutor and the Supreme Court during the Watergate period. Following his years at Newsweek, he formed his own public relations business in Washington, Stephan Lesher Associates, and later moved to Westchester County, NY to join IBM as an executive speechwriter.
Lesher was the author of five books, including a biography of George Wallace, a history of the Warren Court, a critique of the news media, a probe of Washington lobbying and a personal account of his heart attack at age 38, co-authored with his cardiologist, Michael Halberstam. He also wrote numerous articles on newsmakers from all walks of life -- Muhammed Ali, Martin Luther King, Jimmy Hoffa – for publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Look, Good Housekeeping and others.
Besides Nancy, his wife of 42 years, he is survived by sons Michael, of Passaic, NJ, Robert of McLean, VA, Jeffrey of Washington, DC and Joseph of Scottsdale, AZ and daughter, Julia of Fairfax, VA and their spouses, eleven grandchildren and three great grandchildren. A private gathering in celebration of his life will take place in October. To leave a message of remembrance, please visit www.CarpinoCares.com.
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