Richard C. Lee

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Richard C. Lee
Richard C. Lee 1961 (3x4a).jpg
Lee in 1961
Mayor of New Haven, Connecticut
In office
Preceded byWilliam C. Celentano
Succeeded byBartholomew F. Guida
20th President of the United States Conference of Mayors
In office
Preceded byAnthony J. Celebrezze
Succeeded byArthur L. Selland
Personal details
Born(1916-03-12)March 12, 1916
DiedFebruary 2, 2003(2003-02-02) (aged 86)
Political partyDemocratic

Richard Charles Lee (March 12, 1916 – February 2, 2003) (sometimes called "Mr. Urban America") was an American politician who served as the Mayor of New Haven from 1954 until 1970. He was a Democrat, and was the youngest mayor of the city had ever had at the time he entered office in 1954 at the age of 37. Lee is best known for his leading role in urban redevelopment in the 1950s and 1960s.

Early life[edit]

Richard Charles Lee was born on March 12, 1916. He grew up in a cold-water apartment in the working-class Newhallville neighborhood of New Haven. His father, Frederick, worked at the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. He graduated from Hillhouse High School in 1934.


After being defeated for mayor in 1949 and 1951, he won in 1953. Lee appointed the city's first black corporation counsel, George Williamson Crawford, in 1954.[1]

During his first re-election campaign in 1957, John F. Kennedy, then a member of the United States Senate, traveled to New Haven to campaign for him. To shore up New Haven's large Italian-American electorate, the mayor brought in Rocky Marciano, the boxer. He won that election by a 2-to-1 margin.

Lee went on to serve 16 years as mayor, second-longest of New Haven's mayors at the time. In 2003, he died at the age of 86.

In 1962 and 1963, Lee served as the president of the United States Conference of Mayors.[2]


On May 17, 1999, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) dedicated the Richard C. Lee United States Courthouse in downtown New Haven to Lee. DeLauro worked with Senators Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman to rename the federal building, which stands at 141 Church Street. The Richard C. Lee Highway, a freeway in downtown New Haven, is also named in his honor.

A former New Haven public high school, carried the name Richard C. Lee High School in his honor; it has been replaced by Career Magnet High School.[3][4] The Richard C. Lee High School building became the Yale School of Nursing and now houses a variety of Yale Medical School offices.


  1. ^ "George W. Crawford Black Bar Association". Archived from the original on 4 December 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  2. ^ "Leadership". The United States Conference of Mayors. November 23, 2016. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  3. ^ Allan Appel, New Haven’s Monks Sing On, The New Haven Independent, July 21, 2008 (identifies Lee High School as "the predecessor to Career").
  4. ^ Charlotte Libov, Schools Trying to Desegregate On Their Own, The New York Times, August 28, 1988 (states that "Career High School, formerly the Richard C. Lee High School, is in Wooster Place and specializes in health fields, business and computers" and describes plans to replace it with a regional magnet school).

External links[edit]

  • Richard Charles Lee papers (MS 318). Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.[1]

Political offices
Preceded by Mayors of New Haven, Connecticut
1954 — 1970
Succeeded by