E. Brooke Lee

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E. Brooke Lee
Photo of E. Brooke Lee, circa 1940
Col E. Brooke Lee, c. 1940
Secretary of State of Maryland
In office
Maryland House of Delegates
In office
Speaker of the Maryland House
In office
Personal details
Edward Brooke Lee

(1892-10-23)October 23, 1892
Washington, D.C.
DiedSeptember 21, 1984(1984-09-21) (aged 91)
Damascus, Maryland
Cause of deathpneumonia
Resting placeRock Creek Cemetery, Section A, Lot 194, Washington, D.C.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Somerville Wilson,
Thelma Lou Ellen Lawson Crawford,
Nina G. Jones
ChildrenBlair Lee III,
Edward Brooke Lee, Jr.,
Elizabeth Somerville Lee
ParentsBlair Lee I,
Anne Clymer (Brooke) Lee
RelativesLee family
Alma materPrinceton University,
George Washington University
OccupationSoldier, politician
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceMaryland Maryland National Guard
Years of service1912–1918
RankUS-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel
Battles/warsWorld War I
AwardsArmy distinguished service cross medal.jpg Distinguished Service Cross,
Award-star-silver-3d.png Silver Star Citation,
Croix-De-Guerre-Francis-Browne.jpg Croix de Guerre,
Ordre de Leopold CKS plaque p1090312.jpg Order of Leopold

Edward Brooke Lee (October 23, 1892 – September 21, 1984) was a Maryland politician and a veteran of World War I.

Early years[edit]

Edward Brooke Lee was born on October 23, 1892, at the Blair-Lee House in Washington, D.C. His parents were Francis Preston Blair Lee and Anne Clymer (Brooke) Lee.[1] Blair Lee represented Maryland in the U.S. Senate. E. Brooke Lee's great-grandfather, Richard Henry Lee, signed the Declaration of Independence and represented Virginia in the U.S. senate. E. Brooke Lee's great-uncle was Montgomery Blair, who served as postmaster general during Abraham Lincoln's presidency.

E. Brooke Lee attended the Pomfret School in Connecticut, and he graduated in 1912. Lee went on to attend Princeton University, but he left in good standing during his sophomore year in 1916 in order to act as his father's legislative assistant in the Senate.[2][3] Lee then graduated from George Washington University Law School in 1917.

On April 13, 1914, Lee married Elizabeth Somerville Wilson, the daughter of Maryland Senator Joseph S. Wilson.[4] They had three children.[5]

Military career[edit]

The Silver Spring Armory in 1917, constructed by E. Brooke Lee

Lee joined Maryland National Guard F Company, 1st Maryland Infantry of Hyattsville in 1912. Lee and Frank L. Hewitt, another businessman and real estate investor, helped build an armory and organize a new Maryland Guard company, Company K, located in Silver Spring in 1914. (The armory was later remodeled and now houses the Silver Spring Volunteer Fire Department.)[6]

Lee advanced through the ranks to first lieutenant. Company K was activated into federal service on June 28, 1916, to Eagle Pass, Texas. Lee commanded Company K and helped General John J. Pershing pursue Mexican revolutionary and bandit Pancho Villa,[7] who had been running border patrols along the Rio Grande River into New Mexico. Company K continued its federal service until June 28, 1916.

Lee was promoted to Captain, Infantry, National Guard of Maryland on January 29, 1917. Soon thereafter, the United States entered World War I, and Company K was again mustered into federal service in June 1917. Lee and Company K encamped at Blair Lee's field west of Georgia Avenue and north of Kalmia Road in the District of Columbia. The National Guard unit of 150 men was sent to Camp McClellan, near Anniston, Alabama in August 1917 for a period of ten months of training, emerging as Company K of the 115th Infantry, 29th Division of the American Expeditionary Force.

From 1917 to 1918, Lee served in France during World War I as part of the 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division, American Expeditionary Forces.

While commanding of a raiding party against the Central Powers Balschwiller, France, on the morning of August 31, 1918, Lee led soldiers' advance through the enemy wire.[8] Lee was the last person to leave the opposing forces' trenches, and he carried wounded soldiers back through the counter-barrage.[8] Lee spent the entire day of August 31 in a shell hole in no man's land because he wanted to help all wounded soldiers return to the American line.[8] For this, Lee was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star Citation.

Lee received a promotion to the rank of major. He twice received the French Croix de Guerre. Lee also received the Belgian Order of Leopold.

In June 1918, Lee was discharged from active duty with the rank of lieutenant colonel, and he was generally considered a war hero.[9]

After the war, Lee became chief of staff of the 29th Infantry of the Maryland National Guard.

Political career[edit]

In 1919, a group of influential Maryland Democrats approached Lee to encourage him to run for political office in Maryland. Lee was reluctant to jump into state politics so soon after World War I. The group wanted Lee to run for Maryland Comptroller. Lee repeatedly turned them down. The Democratic candidate for Maryland governor, Albert Ritchie, begged Lee to run.[10]

Recalling this time in a 1977 interview, Lee said, "I had an interesting experience when the transport got into Norfolk harbor or Newport News harbor. They threw the Baltimore Sun on board, and the Baltimore Sun edition that they threw on board said, 'Senator Smith Favors Young Lee for Comptroller."[11]

Lee campaigned on the ticket of Governor Albert Ritchie as the 25th Comptroller of the State of Maryland. In 1921, Lee co-founded United Democratic Clubs of Montgomery County, and he served as its treasurer. In 1923, Lee was the Secretary of State of Maryland, and he served in that position for two years. He represented Montgomery County in the Maryland House of Delegates between 1927 and 1930, during which time he also served as the Speaker of the House of Delegates. In 1933, Governor Ritchie appointed Lee to the Committee on Public Works. Lee served as the State Roads Commissioner in 1934.[citation needed]

Development of Montgomery County and Prince George's County[edit]

Lee set up the first land-use and zoning system for Montgomery County, Maryland. Lee strongly advocated for using zoning laws to plan suburban growth in the county.[citation needed] In 1916, Lee helped establish the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission to control the development of regional water and sewer systems that were necessary for the county's growth.[10] In the early 1920s, Lee began to purchase large tracts of farming land and founded the North Washington Realty Company to develop those properties as racially restricted suburban communities.[12] These restrictive covenants forbid the purchase or reselling of these properties by people of "African descent" and remained in effect until 1948 when the Supreme Court in Shelley v. Kraemer ruled they were unenforceable.[12] Lee continued to defend racially restrictive covenants well into the 1960s, claiming that "since law-enforced opening of homes and home communities is only aimed at White owned homes and White occupied communities, the law-enforced open housing statutes are Anti-White laws" in a letter to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Advertiser in March, 1967.[12]

In December 1926, Lee proposed a tax on certain parts of Montgomery and Prince George's counties in order to pay for street construction, lighting, garbage collection, and ash collection.[citation needed]

In January 1927, Lee proposed the creation of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, led by three commissioners appointed by the governor. The Commission would be funded by taxes on residents in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.[citation needed]

Farming and cattle-raising[edit]

E. Brooke Lee Old Gartrell Farm
Polled Hereford Calf

Lee spent the last 30 years of his life at the Old Gartrell Farm, located on Sweepstakes Road in Damascus. Lee farmed and raised Polled Hereford cattle in Maryland, Missouri, and Mississippi.[13] He became the largest breeder of Polled Hereford cattle in the United States.[14] and was the first member of the Polled Hereford Hall of Fame in Kansas City in 1960.[9]for

Maryland Hereford Association named an award after Lee and his third wife Nina G. Jones.[15] The Nina and E. Brooke Lee Award is awarded in recognition of education, leadership, and support of the Maryland Hereford Association and Maryland's Hereford industry.[15]

Lee died of pneumonia in Damascus on September 21, 1984, at the age of 91.


Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School opened in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 1966.[16] In early 2019, Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro wrote to the county school system to request that it change the name of the school, where less than 5% of children identify as white.[17]


  1. ^ Lee, Edmund Jennings (2008). Lee of Virginia, 1642-1892 Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of the Descendants of Colonel Richard Lee:. Heritage Books. p. 488. ISBN 9780788421037.
  2. ^ Hiebert, Ray Elson (1976). A Grateful remberance. Rockville Maryland: Montgomery County Government. pp. 262–263. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  3. ^ "E. Brooke Lee's Montgomery County". The Baltimore Sun. August 5, 1999. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  4. ^ "Senators Son to Wed Upper Marlboro Girl". The Washington Herald. March 16, 1914.
  5. ^ PEACOCK, VIRGINIA TATNALL (April 12, 1914). "Society: Flowers and Furs Mingle as Chill of Winter Lingers for Easter Day -- Weddings to Be the Feature ...". The Washington Post.
  6. ^ "THE HISTORICAL MARKER DATABASE". Silver Spring Armory 1914 Marker. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  7. ^ "Col E. Brooke Lee". Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
  8. ^ a b c "Military Times-Hall of Valor". Military Times. Retrieved April 21, 2013.
  9. ^ a b Dunaway, Karen. "Edward Brooke Lee". Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series). Maryland State Government. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
  10. ^ a b Hiebert, Ray Eldon (1976). A Grateful Remembrance: The Story of Montgomery County, Maryland. Government of Montgomery County, Maryland. pp. 262–265.
  11. ^ Seull, James H. (1977). Special Collections: Historical Manuscripts Collection. Papers of the Lee Family. Interview with Lee by James H. Seull of the Montgomery County Historical Society. Interviewed February 3, 1977 for the Oral History Program of the Montgomery County Historical Society. University of Maryland Libraries. Special Collections:: Oral History Program of the Montgomery County Historical Society.
  12. ^ a b c Nathan Wuertenberg and William Horne, eds (2018). Demand the Impossible: Essays in History as Activism. Washington, DC: Westphalia Press. pp. 89–111.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  13. ^ Samual, Paul D. (April 12, 1986). "Farm of E. Brooke Lee goes to auction". The Daily Record.
  14. ^ "SPRING 2010 V OL . 4 N O . 2" (newsleter). Damascus Historic Society. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  15. ^ a b Chaney, Rebecca Long (March 24, 2008). "Hereford breeders honored". The Frederick News-Post.
  16. ^ "Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School #818". Montgomery County Public Schools. 2015–2016.
  17. ^ "Name Change Proposed for Silver Spring's Brooke Lee Middle School". Bethesda Magazine. 2019-02-06. Retrieved 2019-02-08.
Political offices
Preceded by
Philip B. Perlman
Secretary of State of Maryland
Succeeded by
David C. Winebrenner III