USDA Forest Service honors legacy of D.C. Lee

Published 11:00 am Saturday, May 27, 2023

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Surrounded by family and friends, D.C. Lee was recognized by Randy Moore, Chief of the USDA Forest Service for his contributions to forestry, the timber industry and natural resource management in particular during an era when underrepresented groups were not a prominent feature on the natural resources landscape during his era. This special ceremony was held at the Solon Dixon Forest Education Center last week.

Lee, 91, of Andalusia spent much of his life as a professional logger and business man. Along the way, he passed down to his children, family and others in the community an appreciation for the outdoors. In fact, 11 of Lee’s immediate and extended family members have contributed the equivalent of over 216 years of service to the agency. Ten of those family members were reared in Andalusia.

Chief Randy Moore presented Lee with a unique commentative wooden engraved bowl!  Chief Moore stated, “The vision (Lee) had for his life has had a long-lasting impact on his children and even the community. When we look at that impact, it is significant. Mr. Lee has built a legacy that will outlive him and his children. There is nothing greater than that,” Moore said.

When presenting Lee with the rare wooden bowl, Chief Moore stated,  “Only a very few Forest Service leaders have this bowl. Your contributions are significant enough for you to have one of these bowls that only the most senior leaders of our agency have.”

Also speaking at the event was Wayne Hubbard, professional outdoorsman and host of Urban American Outdoors who currently engaged in developing a television documentary about the Lee family.

“Sometimes, you have to look back to move forward. The Lee family has a foundation of doing amazing things in our natural place and space. It’s not only about the 216-plus years (of service), it’s about everyone else they have affected during that time. How many other people have they engaged and inspired to be better and to do more,” Hubbard said.

Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson participated in the ceremony, citing that Lee’s influence continues to flourish.

“Most of us can’t imagine how hard life was during the Great Depression when Mr. Lee was born. Nor can we imagine the hard work it took to support a family of nine children. It is obvious by (his children’s) success that Mr. Lee didn’t just work hard to support his family financially, but he also made time to pour into them an appreciation for the outdoors,” Johnson said.

The mayor, members of the Lee family along with John Vick, presented Lee with a special plaque recognizing his contributions to forest management.

According to family members, Lee made his first “cut” in the logging industry with a cross-cut saw, later migrating to the power saw to earn a living for his family while also passing down meaningful lessons to his children and others who worked alongside him throughout the years.  Lee and his late wife, Clara, are the parents of nine children. Those children, along with other descendants, have gone one to put Lee’s lessons to use in their adult lives. Charles Lee retired from the Forest Service after 38 years of service and was a strong advocate of restoring the Longleaf Pine ecosystem at a time when it was not a popular land management strategy. Charles’ wife, Wanda, also worked for the agency and retired after 23 years of service. Another son, Tony Lee, who is retired from the chemical industry, housed forestry students during their summer employment on the Conecuh Ranger District at his expense for 16 years. Robert E. Lee recently retired from the Forest Service with over 30 years of service and his wife, Ellee, also served the agency. Another son, Eric Lee, continues his career with the Forest Service after 29 years.

Two other relatives, Elrand Denson and Deidre Ward- Smith work in the Forest Service’s national office in Washington, D.C. and both have over 30 years of service. Chandria and Derrick Fulgrum also have established careers within the agency.

“He instilled in his family the need to love and respect the land, to be diligent, work hard, be honest and give back to society,” said his son, Robert Lee.

“None of this would be possible without them because they opened the doors for all of us. There are four generations of resource management in this room and it will continue on,” Elrand Denson.