Edwin John Kiest, newspaper publisher, was born on September 24, 1861, in Cook County, Illinois, to John Christian and Barbara Ann Kiest. He attended public schools in Chicago, Joliet, and Elgin, Illinois, where his father, a Methodist minister, held pastorates, but quit school in 1871 to work as a newsboy in Chicago and learn the printer's trade. From 1876 to 1889 he worked as a compositor and sometime reporter for various Chicago newspapers, for the Elgin Watch Company, and in the retail grocery business. He returned to newspaper work in 1889 with the Western Newspaper Union, which sent him to Omaha, Nebraska, Kansas City, Missouri, and Dallas, Texas, where he arrived on December 31, 1890. In 1896, rather than accept a company promotion that would transfer him back to Chicago, Kiest established a stock company and bought the struggling Dallas Daily Times Herald (see DALLAS TIMES HERALD), which he owned and published until his death. By 1899 he was able to relinquish a number of duties and devote himself entirely to editing and publishing. The same year he became a charter member of the Associated Press, and when the wire photo service began he became one of its first subscribers. He was influential in the foundation in Dallas of WRR, which became the nation's first city-owned radio station. In 1927 the Times Herald bought radio station KRLD.
In civic service Kiest worked through his newspaper to develop an adequate water supply for Dallas, the result being Lake Dallas in Denton County. He was president of the State Fair of Texas from 1908 to 1911 and in 1920–21. He helped finance the building of permanent fair structures and was named lifetime honorary president. He served as president of the Dallas City Park Board from 1931 to 1935 and then as a director until his death. Kiest was a financial supporter of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and, with his artist-wife, helped found the Dallas Art Association. In 1928 he became a director of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University). He was also a director of the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children, a life member of the Boy Scouts of America and the American Red Cross, and a member of Sigma Delta Chi. He was given honorary degrees by Southern Methodist University (1928) and Texas A&M (1941). He received the 1930 Linz Award for civil service.
Kiest married Mrs. Elizabeth Patterson Lyon on October 20, 1893; they had no children. In 1935 he gave the city of Dallas a large tract of land for a park in memory of his wife, who died in 1917. Kiest was a Methodist and a thirty-third-degree Mason. He died in Dallas on August 11, 1941.