Troy University alumnus Charles McDowell Lee was recently honored for his nearly five decades as secretary of the Alabama senate with the unveiling of an official bust and portrait during a ceremony at the statehouse.
Lee retired in February 2010 at the close of the Senate’s organizational session. His 47 years as senate secretary make him the nation’s longest serving legislative secretary.
During the ceremony, state legislators and elected officials past and present praised Lee for his dedication and service.
“McDowell Lee has truly been a vital part of his institution and a big part of the history of this state,” said then-Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom, Jr.
Former Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley said Lee’s experience and vast knowledge of parliamentary procedure were assets throughout Beasley’s time in office.
“I was as green as anyone could possibly be … and he kept me out of trouble for eight years,” Beasley said. “I consider Mac my friend, and I owe a great deal to him.”
Sen. Larry Dixon of Montgomery described Lee as steadfastly committed to the institution of the Senate.
“The institution was always the most important thing to you,” Dixon said. “You were dedicated to ensuring that this institution could function and that the senators could provide the services they were elected to provide.”
The ceremony marked the official unveiling of a bust of Lee made by sculptor Warren Lightfoot and a portrait by Chinese artist Jie Ruan. Both pieces will be displayed in the statehouse.
Lee said he was moved by the ceremony and the sentiments shared by his former colleagues.
“I didn’t expect all of this, and I’ve got to say it really got to me,” Lee said. “This has touched me greatly.”
Lee was elected Secretary of the Senate in 1963 and held the position continuously until his retirement. He was born in Clayton in 1925 and graduated from TROY in 1950.
Before turning to politics, Lee served in the U.S. Navy in World War II and was a special agent of the FBI.
He served one term as mayor of Clio, and served in the State House of Representatives from 1954 to 1962 before beginning his long tenure in the Senate.
The McDowell Lee Natatorium at the Troy Campus is named in Lee’s honor.
Matt Clower (2004) is a university relations coordinator.