Alexander “Will Take Whatever Steps Necessary” to Ensure Memphis Veteran, Lt. George W. Lee, Receives the Honor He Deserves for Bravery During WWI

Posted on April 5, 2014

At event today in Memphis honoring Lt. Lee, says “count me in” on efforts to seek  review of  Lt. Lee’s Army records


MEMPHIS, April 5 – At an event today in Memphis honoring the legacy of World War I veteran and civil rights activist Lt. George W. Lee, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he would seek the United States Army’s consideration in awarding Lee military honors for his bravery.  

Alexander said, “Lt. Lee was always breaking barriers. He went to college when few African Americans could. He joined the military when few could. He was a capitalist when few were. And he received honors for his bravery in France in during World War I, but never received the Purple Heart. I am going to work with his daughter, Gilda Lee,  to take whatever steps necessary to ensure that Lt. Lee receives whatever honors he deserves for bravery during World War I. Count me in on this important effort to honor Lt. Lee for his bravery, and for his contributions to Memphis, Shelby County and our nation.”

During World War I, Lt. Lee was assigned to the 92nd Division of the 386th Regiment and was sent to France in June of 1918. He was awarded the French “Croix de Guerre” medal for bravery during the war. He was promoted to First Lieutenant but was not awarded with a distinguishing medal from the United States Army.

Following the war, Lee established himself in Memphis as a successful businessman, Republican leader and civil rights activist. Lee’s many contributions to the community included starting the Beale Street Christmas Food Basket Drive and serving as head of the National Scholarship Program for Negro Elks, which awarded Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an educational scholarship at the age of 14. 

Lee was an author, including the book, Beale Street: Where the Blues Began. Lee was also the first African American man in the country to have a U.S. Post Office named after him. Many of Lee’s speeches are housed in the Library of Congress and the George W. Lee collection at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, where today’s event was held. Hooks, also a veteran and civil rights leader, was mentored by Lee, who passed away in 1976.


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