Biographical / Historical
Chester E. Whiting (1901-1985) was a soldier, conductor, and public servant. He is best-known as the founder of the U.S. Army Field Band, where he served as conductor for fourteen years, between 1946 and 1960. Under his leadership, the U.S. Army Field Band became the organization now nicknamed "The Million Dollar Band." Although based out of Fort Meade, the Field Band had an active role in post-war musical diplomacy, traveling throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. That period coincided with Whiting’s participation in the American Bandmasters Association; he was elected to membership in 1948 and subsequently served on the Board of Directors (1955, 1965), as Vice-President (1963), and as President (1964).
As a young professional Whiting was a band director and administrator in Malden, Massachusetts and a member of the Massachusetts National Guard, serving as the director of the 110th Cavalry Band between 1924 and 1940. After World War II began, the 110th was redesignated the 180th Field Artillery Band, and Whiting went on active duty. Over the course of the next several years, Whiting became director of the newly-formed Americal Division Band. Upon the conclusion of the war, Whiting was awarded the Bronze star and became one of the founding members of the 1st Combat Infantry Band, which eventually became the Army Field Band ("The Million Dollar Band").
After retirement from the U.S. military, Whiting returned to teaching and administration, eventually serving on the Prince George's County School Board from 1967 to 1980. During those years, the post-war government economy boomed, and P.G. County became less rural and more suburban with an explosion of African-American residents. Court ordered school desegregation began in 1973, and, although he had formerly voted against it, Whiting ushered in the new system, continuing to serve for seven more years.