Justice has a Name – Sheriff Harry Lee

Sheriff Harry Lee

I got the word that Sheriff Harry Lee of Louisiana passed away earlier today, so I quickly decided to post this entry about one of my favorite figures across the fruited plain. I have been a longtime fan of Sheriff Harry Lee and his tough, no-nonsense, no-apologies style. The people of Louisiana were indeed very lucky to have him as the guardian the law!

Sheriff Lee is a great success story. He was born in the back room of a Chinese laundry in downtown New Orleans. During his childhood, he lived in a single room with his mother, father, two older sisters, two younger sisters and a younger brother.

The Lee family got out of the laundry business during World War II and opened a restaurant and bar, and young Harry would help out when not attending school.

While in grade school, he began his ascent to leadership position. He was elected president of his class and later president of the student body. In high school, he was the only person in the forty-year-history of Francis T. Nicholls High School to serve both as Senior Class President and Student Body President. When he graduated from high school, he received the American Legion Award as the outstanding male graduate.

Harry Lee pursued the hard sciences in college, earing a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from Louisiana State University. There he also lettered in tennis and was designated an outstanding ROTC Cadet.

After graduating, Harry entered the Air Force and, as a Junior Officer in the Strategic Air Command was rated in the top two percent of Junior Officers in the entire Air Force.

Returning home from the service, Harry’s family opened the famous House of Lee Restaurant in 1959. Because of his ambition and leadership qualities, Harry was elected president of the New Orleans Chapter of the Louisiana Restaurant Association in 1964. His fellow restaurateurs credit his leadership for the peaceful integration of restaurants in New Orleans after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

While helping manage the family business, Harry attended law school and graduated with top grades, passing the tough Louisiana bar with it’s arcane Napoleonic Code. After just a few years of law practice, Harry was the first United States Magistrate to be sworn in for the Eastern District of Louisiana in 1971. His leadership abilities were again recognized and he was elected President of the National Council of United States Magistrates in 1973.

When Harry Lee visited the People’s Republic of China as a member of the Boggs/Ford Delegation in 1972, it was determined he was the first American of Chinese Ancestry to be officially invited to the people’s Republic of China since 1959.

After resigning from the office of United States Magistrate, Harry was appointed as Parish Attorney for the Parish of Jefferson, State of Louisiana, and in 1979 was elected Sheriff of Jefferson Parish. Harry was re-elected in 1983, 1987, 1991, 1995, and again in 1999.

Harry Lee was an accomplished lawman with a distinctive Louisiana drawl, and a popular figure in his region. A wonderful, tough gentleman. He shall be missed.

Source: Sheriff Harry Lee