African Americans in Des Moines Iowa

Promoting the existence of the African American community of Des Moines.

Purpose of the Site

The purpose of this site is to explore the history of African Americans in and around Des Moines Iowa.  Here you will find stories, census, newspaper clippings, birth and death notices and more.  Our goal is to share the treasure of the African American experience in Des Moines, Iowa, and to hopefully assist those on their genealogical journey to and through this part of the country.

John Melvin Esters Jr.

John Melvin Estes jr

 John Melvin Estes, Jr. was born in Joplin Missouri to John M. Estes, Sr. and his wife Mildred Young Estes. Johnís father established the Estes and Son Funeral Home in Des Moines, Iowa in 1939. He was attended Des Moines, University of Iowa, Kansas City, Missouri College of Mortuary Science and Chicago, Illinois School of Restorative Art.


When he was young Mr. Estes was involved in a wide variety of activities from Boy Scoutís, to being a member of the Crocker YMCA, Mr. Estes  an athlete in multiple sports, life guard at Good Park and participated in civic activities with his father and friends.

He was President of the Des Moines Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, member of the Des Moines Chamber of Commerce, Young Republicans, board member of the United Way of Greater Des Moines, President of the Board of the Polk County Mental Health, , Mayoral appointment to the Des Moines Housing Board, a founding coach for the Des Moines Little League Football, He was a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. In addition, he has been the recipient of awards and accolades for his good deeds and professionalism. Mr. Estes was employed in the Secretary of Stateís office with the late Melvin Synhorst. He grew up in the funeral home business with his father and spent full time serving citizens at Estes and Son Funeral Home until his retirement in 1997.

Known to many for his ability in sports while a student at North High School, Mr. Estes is listed in the Hall of Fame. He was a star on the football team at the University of Iowa until a basketball game at Good Park caused a broken neck that resulted in his being a paraplegic. The John Estes Sports Complex remains in his honor at Good Park.