By Don Hinkle
SPRINGFIELD – William R. “Bill” Jester, 61, a central figure in the ongoing legal battle involving the Missouri Baptist Convention and 941 disputed acres at Windermere Baptist Conference Center, died June 2 in Springfield, following a brief illness.
Jester, a former vice president at Southwest Baptist University (SBU) in Bolivar, and the Missouri convention have been at legal odds for several years over the acreage that has been part of a larger, protracted legal battle involving breakaway trustee boards of five MBC entities.
Jester served as vice president for admissions and financial assistance at SBU from 1971-79 when he founded Springfield-based Resource Development Inc. (RDI). It is under the RDI banner that Jester gained control of the 941 acres from Windermere trustees.
Jester, through RDI, in 2008 owned 24 entities with market value assets of approximately $75.1 million and annual rental revenues exceeding $4.1 million, according to the company’s website. Originally, the firm exclusively provided consulting service to nonprofit institutional clients in the area of fund development. In 1989, Jester expanded his operations and entered the real estate business with the design and construction of a commercial office building in Springfield, according to the website. As of 2008, the company reported that Jester owned nearly 500,000 square feet of commercial office and retail space that he had either developed or purchased in several Midwest states.
Jester was a graduate of Southwest Baptist University with a bachelor’s degree in speech and debate.
Funeral services were held June 5 at Butler Funeral Home Chapel in Bolivar.