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Lee family

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Current regionVirginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Florida
Place of originEngland
MembersThomas Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee, Richard Henry Lee, Henry Lee III, Thomas Sim Lee, Robert E. Lee
Estate(s)Stratford Hall

The Lee family of the United States is a historically significant Virginia and Maryland political family, whose many prominent members are known for their accomplishments in politics and the military. The family became prominent in colonial British America when Richard Lee I ("The Immigrant") immigrated to Colonial Virginia in 1639 and made his fortune in tobacco.

Members of the family include Thomas Lee (1690–1750), a founder of the Ohio Company and a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses; Francis Lightfoot Lee (1734–1797) and Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794), signers of the American Declaration of Independence, with Richard Lee also serving as one of Virginia's inaugural U.S. Senators; Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee (1756–1818), lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army and Governor of Virginia; Thomas Sim Lee (1745–1819), Governor of Maryland and lastly, and most famous, General Robert E. Lee (1807–1870), commander of the Army of Northern Virginia of the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War (1861–1865). Twelfth President Zachary Taylor (1784–1850, served 1849–1850), and ninth Chief Justice Edward Douglass White (1845–1921, served 1894–1921) were also descendants of Richard Lee I. Confederate President Jefferson Davis married Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of Zachary Taylor.

Most recently, family members have marked over two hundred years of political service in the United States, as Blair Lee III (1916–1985, served 1971–1979), a descendant of Richard Henry Lee, served as the second Lieutenant Governor of Maryland when the office was revived, from 1971 to 1979 and Acting Governor of Maryland from 1977 to 1979. Charles Carter Lee, a descendant of Henry Lee III and a Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles County, California was named the U.S. team's Chef de Mission by the United States Olympic Committee for the Beijing Olympics.


Colonel Richard Lee "the Founder" of the family in North America
Thomas Lee (1690–1750), Virginia colonist and cofounder of the Ohio Company.
Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794) was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence and served as the president of the Continental Congress.

Richard Lee asserted descent from the Lees of Shropshire and bore a coat of arms which was confirmed in 1660/1 by John Gibbon, Bluemantle Pursuivant of the College of Arms. In 1988, a study by William Thorndal was published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly,[1] proving that Richard Lee I was actually the son of John Lee, a clothier, and his wife Jane Hancock; that Richard had been born not at Coton Hall in Shropshire, but in Worcester (some distance down the River Severn); and that several of their immediate relatives had been apprenticed as vintners. The question, then, has been 'how did Richard Lee descend from the family with whom he shared a coat of arms?' The book Collections for the Ancestry of Colonel Richard Lee, Virginia Emigrant, by English genealogist Alan Nicholls[2] presented evidence for the English ancestry of Colonel Richard Lee using contemporary documents, transcribing records left by Richard Lee, his family, and their associates. It also looks at the records left by the Shropshire and Worcester Lee families. These data and additional related findings demonstrate that Richard Lee's Marson ancestors, the wealthiest tradesmen and merchants in Worcester, were likely the cause of his grandfather and father's lives in Worcester. A great-uncle, Richard Lee, was probably the man of the same name, called 'Richard Lee, Gent' buried at Coton Hall's Alveley Parish in 1613.[3][4]

Colonial Virginia[edit]

In the Thirteen Colonies destined to declare independence from British North America and become the United States, the family began when Richard Lee I immigrated to the Colony of Virginia and made his fortune in the cultivation of tobacco. His son Richard Lee II married Laetitia Corbin, daughter of The Hon. Henry Corbin of Rappahannock County, was a member of the House of Burgesses and later King's Council. His son, Richard Lee III, was a cotton broker in London for the family and leased to his brothers Thomas and Henry the plantation he inherited from his father, "Machodoc," for "an annual rent of one peppercorn only, payable on Christmas Day". The Lees first gained wider significance with the aforementioned Thomas Lee (1690–1750). He became a member of the House of Burgesses and later went on to found the Ohio Company, and was the co-executor of his uncle, John Tayloe I's, estate, what became Mount Airy.

Revolutionary War era[edit]

General Henry Lee III, "Light Horse Harry," also served as Governor of Virginia, and was the father of Robert E. Lee. (portrait by William Edward West)

Thomas Lee[5] (1690–1750) married Hannah Harrison Ludwell:[6] their children, like the descendants of Thomas Lee's brother Henry Lee I (1691–1747), included a number of prominent Revolutionary War and pre-Revolution political figures.

Thomas and Hannah Lee's two eldest children were Philip Ludwell Lee (1726–1775) and Hannah Lee (1728–1782).

Thomas Ludwell Lee (1730–1778) was a member of the Virginia Delegates and a major editor of George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), a precursor to the United States Declaration of Independence, which was signed by his brothers Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794) and Francis Lightfoot Lee (1734–1797).

Richard Henry Lee was a delegate to Continental Congress from Virginia and president of that body, 1774, later serving as president of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation, and United States Senator from Virginia (1789–1792) under the new United States Constitution.

Younger siblings included Alice Lee (1736–1818), who married American Chief Physician William Shippen, Jr.[7] and diplomats William Lee (b. 1739, d. 1795) and Arthur Lee (b. 1740, d. 1792).

Henry Lee's grandson, Henry Lee III (1756–1818), known as "Light Horse Harry," was a Princeton graduate who served with great distinction under General George Washington in the American Revolutionary War, and was the only officer below the rank of General to receive the "Gold Medal," awarded for his leadership at the Battle of Paulus Hook in New Jersey, on 19 August 1779. He was Governor of Virginia from 1791 to 1794. Among his nine children was Robert Edward Lee, later the famed Confederate general during the American Civil War.

Henry Lee III's brothers were the noted Richard Bland Lee, a three-term U.S. Congressman from Virginia, and Charles Lee (1758–1815), Attorney General of the United States from 1795 to 1801.

Thomas Sim Lee, a second cousin of Henry Lee III, was elected Governor of Maryland in 1779 and 1792 and declined a third term in 1798. Born in the Province of Maryland in 1745, he played an important part in the birth of Maryland as a state and in the birth of the United States of America as a nation. A great-grandson of Thomas Sim Lee was John Lee Carroll, the 37th Governor of Maryland.

Civil War era[edit]

Robert E. Lee, 1863
Portrait by Julian Vannerson

Robert E. Lee (1807–1870) was the son of Henry Lee III, and probably the most famous member of the Lee family. He served as Confederate general in the United States Civil War and later as President of Washington and Lee University, which was named for him and for George Washington. Washington and Lee University houses Lee Chapel, burial site of several members of the Lee family. Stratford Hall, a Lee family estate and birthplace of Robert E. Lee, houses the Lee Family Digital Archive. He was married to Mary Anna Randolph Custis,[8] who was a granddaughter of Martha Washington and also was Lee's third cousin once removed through Richard Lee II, fourth cousin through William Randolph, and third cousin through Robert Carter I. R. E. Lee's children were George Washington Custis Lee, Mary Custis Lee, Robert E. Lee Jr., Anne Carter Lee, Mildred Childe Lee, Eleanor Agnes Lee, and William H. Fitzhugh Lee.

Richard Lucian Page
Samuel Phillips Lee, United States Navy Rear Admiral

Other Lee relations who were general officers during the Civil War were Fitzhugh Lee (C.S.A.), Samuel Phillips Lee (U.S. Navy); Richard Lucian Page (Confederate States and Navy); Edwin Gray Lee (C.S.A.) and Richard L. T. Beale (C.S.A.). Indirect relations of R.E.Lee who were Confederate general officers included William N. Pendleton and Virginia Military Institute graduate William H. F. Payne.[9] Two other civil war generals who were related to Lee were George B. Crittenden (C.S.A.) and Thomas Leonidas Crittenden (U.S.); their sister was the author Ann Mary Butler Crittenden Coleman; and their mother was Sarah O. Lee a great-great-granddaughter of Richard Lee I "the Founder". A son of Thomas L. Crittenden, John Jordan Crittenden III, died at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Another distant Lee relation was U.S. Admiral Willis A. Lee of Kentucky.

"Bedford", the Jefferson County home of his cousin Edmund J. Lee Jr. (1797–1877), son of Edmund Jennings Lee I, was burned in July 1864, along with others of Confederate sympathizers in what became the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.[10]

Later generations[edit]

Francis Preston Blair Lee (1857–1944), known as "Blair Lee," was a United States senator from Maryland and a great-grandson of Richard Henry Lee.
Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr., USN; circa 1942.

Francis Preston Blair Lee (1857–1944) was a Democratic member of the United States Senate, representing the State of Maryland from 1914 to 1917. He was also the great-grandson of American patriot Richard Henry Lee, father of E. Brooke Lee comptroller of Maryland and "Father of Silver Spring" and grandfather of Blair Lee III, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland from 1971 to 1979 and Acting Governor of Maryland from 1977 to 1979.[11]

Judge Charles Carter Lee, a direct descendant of Henry Lee III, was selected to represent the United States at the 2008 Olympic Games as the United States Olympic Committee's Chef de Mission. Judge Lee, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge since 1989, was also involved with the 1984 Summer Olympics as he headed a delegation sent to China after the Soviet Union announced a plan to boycott the Olympics in Los Angeles. These talks concluded with China's formal agreement in writing to participate in the 1984 Olympics. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's mother was born Janet Lee and claimed to be part of the family. It was later proven that she was not. [citation needed]

Family tree[edit]

Below is a list of notable male members of the Lee family, beginning with Virginia Governor Thomas Lee and Henry Lee:[original research?]

Partial Lee family tree

U.S. Representative David Dreier also has stated that he is a distant relative of Richard Bland Lee.[citation needed] Zachary Taylor was also nephew by marriage of Maryland House Delegates Benjamin Mackall IV[24] and Thomas Mackall.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ William Thorndale, "The Parents of Colonel Richard Lee of Virginia," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 76 (December 1988): 253–68
  2. ^ Alan James Nicholls, "Collections for the Ancestry of Colonel Richard Lee, Virginia Emigrant", published at LULU.COM (June 2011)
  3. ^ Harrison Dwight Cavanagh, Colonial Chesapeake Families: British Origins and Descendants, Vol. 2 (Dallas, Tex.: p. p., 2014), 118-125, esp. 119.
  4. ^ Richard Bland Lee 5th (1930–2012), "[Lee Family Genealogical Research]" (2009–2013); folder: "Lee: Virginia," vertical files; R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston.
  5. ^ "History Stratford – Thomas Lee 1690–1750". Archived from the original on 8 July 2006.
  6. ^ Her first cousin twice removed was Benjamin Harrison V
  7. ^ Shippen's father, Continental Congressman William Shippen, was a cousin of Peggy Shippen wife of Benedict Arnold
  8. ^ "William Fitzhugh". Archived from the original on 10 February 2001.
  9. ^ A possible relation was Colonel William R. Lee of the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry who was descended from Henry Lee who died 1675 in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Possibly Henry Lee was descended either from Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley or possibly related to Colonel Richard Lee of Virginia .p.3-but no proof either way
  10. ^ Bushong, Millard Kessler (1941). A History of Jefferson County, West Virginia, 1719–1940 pp. 231-232.
  11. ^ Rasmussen, Frederick N. (13 August 2011). "Mathilde B. "Mimi" Lee, former acting first lady of Maryland, dies at 91". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on 2 October 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2011.. Willis Augustus Lee a Vice Admiral and member of the Kentucky Branch of the Lee family won the Naval Battle of Gaudalcanal in 1942.
  12. ^ "Richard Henry Lee". www.nndb.com.
  13. ^ "LEE, Blair - Biographical Information". bioguide.congress.gov.
  14. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Lee, E to F". politicalgraveyard.com.
  15. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Lee, A to B". politicalgraveyard.com.
  16. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Lee, E to F". politicalgraveyard.com.
  17. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Taylor, U to Z". politicalgraveyard.com.
  18. ^ "Jefferson Davis". ngeorgia.com. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  19. ^ "Victor D. Crist, Florida Senator". www.statesurge.com.
  20. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Taylor, E to F". politicalgraveyard.com.
  21. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Major to Majoras". politicalgraveyard.com.
  22. ^ a b "Family relationship of Zachary Taylor and James Madison via James Taylor Jr." famouskin.com.
  23. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Woody to Worthing". politicalgraveyard.com.
  24. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Mackaig to Mackay". politicalgraveyard.com.
  25. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Mackaig to Mackay". politicalgraveyard.com.

Further reading[edit]

  • Nagel, Paul C., The Lees of Virginia: Seven Generations of an American Family, Oxford University Press, reprinted 1992, ISBN 0-19-507478-5.
  • Lee, Edmund Jennings (editor), Lee of Virginia, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, Maryland. reprinted 1983, ISBN 0-8063-0604-1
  • Burton J. Hendrick (author), "The Lees of Virginia", Halcyon House Editions, published and distributed by Blue Ribbon Books, Inc., 386 Fourth Avenue, New York, New York. Hardcover, copyright 1935, ASIN: B000NWSC4Q

External links[edit]