Lester Crockett Biography
A hard worker since the ripe young age of 10, by the time he was 24, Lester Crockett made enough money to buy his own Mr. Softee Ice Cream truck. But don’t ever make the mistake of calling Crockett a Mr. Softee. This son of the infamous streets of “Do-or Die” Bed-Stuy has always had the tenacity and conviction to not only survive, but indeed thrive.
One of five children raised by James and Evelyn Crockett, Lester grew up during some of the most tumultuous days of court-ordered desegregation in the mid-1960s.
“That was one of the important trials of my life,” Crockett would later recall. “The transformation from attending an all African American school to a school that was predominantly white.”
Yet, that is where he relished the opportunity to learn about and befriend different groups of people. He went on to graduate from Midwood High School and later enroll at the Borough of Manhattan Community College but not before experiencing another life-changing moment.
Just days after his 17th birthday, and just moments after speaking briefly to a good friend, the same friend died in a violent gang fight. At the time he was struggling with the path he would take in life. The gang life had a certain allure for many young people, but the murder of his friend cemented his decision to continue his education.
“I never cried so hard in my life. I held myself responsible because I failed to take the time to really listen to the pain my friend was experiencing,” said Crockett. “From that point on until today I make it a point to listen to people. I also made it a point to speak about positive things.”
Soon he was volunteering on the State Assembly race for Al Vann who established the Vanguard Urban Improvement Association to work with African American youth. He had his first taste of leadership as the first president of the Youth Council, a year later he started working for the State Insurance Fund
During a 30 year career at the Fund. Lester rose up the career ladder quickly, thought that wasn’t the case early on.
He became frustrated because he was not getting promoted even though he met the requirements. He felt the local president at the time wasn’t working as hard to find out why that was the case. At one of his first union meetings, he was also baffled by the location and atmosphere. Instead of meeting in a room, the meeting was held behind her desk. Instead of an agenda, the meeting consisted of letters being open and read aloud. He told himself that if he were ever president he would change that.
Indeed he did run and narrowly won by 4 votes. The election was subsequently challenged and redone. The results of the second election was a resounding landside in favor of Crockett.
One of his first goals as local president was to involve people that have never been involved before and help mold the local into one of the strongest locals in the region.
“I wear CSEA as a badge of honor,” said Crockett. “I service people the way I would like to be serviced.”
Over the years Crockett has served on numerous boards and committees including the Board of Directors, the statewide committee on the Charter, Constitution and Bylaws, most recently was appointed as a Trustee of the Political Action Fund.
Proof of his tenacity, determination and conviction lie in the fact that he ran for Executive Vice President of the Region five times before finally winning the Presidency.
“I never allowed it (losing) to change who I was I never. I never became bitter if I lost. I just thought you have to fight harder to get it and maintain it.”
Crockett exercises regularly to maintain fit and often as a form of meditation. “You always have to conduct yourself as a professional because if you don’t others won’t let you live it down.”
He’s raised a son and a daughter and has instilled in them the same values he learned as a child.
He admits that he’s always admired former CSEA President Joe McDermott, and has a longlasting appreciation for the friendship he has with Statewide Secretary Denise Berkley, even though they were often rivals for union leadership positions.
Finally he credits former Metropolitan Region President George Boncoraglio for providing him with advice and direction during his tenure.
“Nobody gave me this, it took hard work and sacrifice,” said Crockett. “I’m much better at kicking butt than kissing butt.”