Howard Nathaniel Lee
Lee earned a bachelor's degree from Fort Valley State College in 1959 and was the first member of his family to receive a college diploma."UNC TV: Biographical Conversations with Howard N. Lee: timeline". Retrieved 14 April 2013. He moved to North Carolina in 1964 and a received a Master's in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1965 he joined the faculty of both Duke University and North Carolina Central.
On May 6, 1969, Lee was elected mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He was the first African American to hold the position in a predominantly white city, and the first to do so in the South since Reconstruction. He won by a narrow margin but would go on to be re-elected twice, earning 64 percent of the vote in 1971 and 89 percent in 1973.
In 1976, Lee sought the Democratic Party nomination for Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, but was defeated in the Primary election. In 1977, Governor Jim Hunt appointed Lee as the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Community Development, a post which he held until 1981.
Lee returned to electoral politics in 1990 when he was elected to the North Carolina Senate. He served from 1990 to 1994 and 1996 to 2002. While in the Senate, he concentrated particularly on issues affecting public education.
On May 1, 2003, the North Carolina State Board of Education elected him as its chairman, succeeding Phil Kirk. In 2009, Gov. Beverly Perdue announced that she was appointing Lee as the new executive director of the N.C. Education Cabinet, composed of leaders of public schools, community colleges and public and private universities. This meant Lee would give up his seat on the Board of Education.
- Oral History Interview with Howard Nathaniel Lee from Oral Histories of the American South
- Finding Aid: Billy E. Barnes Photographic Collection, 1959-1996, in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, UNC-Chapel Hill
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