Lee family

For other uses, see Lee (English surname).
Current region Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, United States
Place of origin England
Members Robert E. Lee, Henry Lee III, Richard Henry Lee, etc.
Colonel Richard Lee "the Founder" of the family in the U.S.

The Lee family of the United States is a historically significant Virginia and Maryland political family, whose many prominent members are known for their accomplishments in politics and the military. The family became prominent in colonial America when Richard Lee I ("The Immigrant") immigrated to Virginia in 1639 and made his fortune in tobacco.

Members of the family include Thomas Lee (1690–1750), a founder of the Ohio Company and a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses; Francis Lightfoot Lee (1734–1797) and Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794), signers of the United States Declaration of Independence; Thomas Sim Lee (1745–1819), Governor of Maryland and, most famous, General Robert E. Lee (1807–1870) Confederate States of America commander in the American Civil War. President Zachary Taylor and Chief Justice Edward Douglass White were also descendants of Richard Lee I. Confederate President Jefferson Davis married Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of Zachary Taylor.

Most recently, family members have marked over two hundred years of political service in the United States, as Blair Lee III, a descendant of Richard Henry Lee, served as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland from 1971–1979 and Acting Governor of Maryland from 1978–1979. Charles Carter Lee, a descendant of Henry Lee III and a Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles County, was named the U.S. team's Chef de Mission by the United States Olympic Committee for the Beijing Olympics.


Thomas Lee (1690–1750), Virginia colonist and cofounder of the Ohio Company.

Richard Lee asserted descent from the Lees of Shropshire and bore a coat of arms which was confirmed in 1660/1 by John Gibbon, Bluemantle Pursuivant of the College of Arms. In 1988, a study by William Thorndal was published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly,[1] proving that Richard Lee I was actually the son of John Lee, a clothier, and his wife Jane Hancock; that Richard had been born not at Coton Hall in Shropshire, but in Worcester (some distance down the River Severn); and that several of their immediate relatives had been apprenticed as vintners. The question, then, has been 'how did Richard Lee descend from the family with whom he shared a coat of arms?' The book Collections for the Ancestry of Colonel Richard Lee, Virginia Emigrant, by English genealogist Alan Nicholls[2] presented evidence for the English ancestry of Colonel Richard Lee using contemporary documents, transcribing records left by Richard Lee, his family, and their associates. It also looks at the records left by the Shropshire and Worcester Lee families. These data and additional related findings demonstrate that Richard Lee's Marson ancestors, the wealthiest tradesmen and merchants in Worcester, were likely the cause of his grandfather and father's lives in Worcester. A great-uncle, Richard Lee, was probably the man of the same name, called 'Richard Lee, Gent' buried at Coton Hall's Alveley Parish in 1613.[3][4]

Colonial Virginia

In the U.S., the family began when Richard Lee I emigrated to Virginia and made his fortune in tobacco. The Lees first gained wider significance with Thomas Lee (1690–1750). He became a member of the House of Burgesses and later went on to found the Ohio Company.

Revolutionary War era

General Henry Lee III, "Light Horse Harry," also served as Governor of Virginia, and was the father of Robert E. Lee. (portrait by William Edward West)

Thomas Lee[5] (1690–1750) married Hannah Harrison[6] Ludwell: their children, like the descendants of Thomas Lee's brother Henry Lee I (1691–1747), included a number of prominent Revolutionary War and pre-Revolution political figures.

Thomas and Hannah Lee's two eldest children were Philip Ludwell Lee (1726–1775) and Hannah Lee (1728–1782).

Thomas Ludwell Lee (1730–1778) was a member of the Virginia Delegates and a major editor of George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), a precursor to the United States Declaration of Independence, which was signed by his brothers Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794) and Francis Lightfoot Lee (1734–1797).

Richard Henry Lee was a delegate to Continental Congress from Virginia and president of that body, 1774, later serving as president of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation, and United States Senator from Virginia (1789–1792) under the new United States Constitution.

Younger siblings included Alice Lee (1736–1818), who married American Chief Physician William Shippen, Jr.[7] and diplomats William Lee (b. 1739, d. 1795) and Arthur Lee (b. 1740, d. 1792).

Henry Lee's grandson, Henry Lee III (1756–1818), known as "Light Horse Harry," was a Princeton graduate who served with great distinction under General George Washington in the American Revolutionary War, and was the only officer below the rank of General to receive the "Gold Medal," awarded for his leadership at the Battle of Paulus Hook in New Jersey, on 19 August 1779. He was Governor of Virginia from 1791–1794. Among his six children was Robert Edward Lee, later the famed Confederate general during the American Civil War.

Henry Lee III's brothers were the noted Richard Bland Lee, a three-term U.S. Congressman from Virginia, and Charles Lee (1758–1815), Attorney General of the United States from 1795–1801.

Thomas Sim Lee, a second cousin of Henry Lee III, was elected Governor of Maryland in 1779 and 1792 and declined a third term in 1798. He played an important part in the birth of Maryland as state and in the birth of the United States of America as a nation. A grandson of Thomas Sim Lee was John Lee Carroll, the 37th Governor of Maryland.

Civil War era

Robert E. Lee, 1863
Portrait by Julian Vannerson
Richard Lucian Page
Samuel Phillips Lee, United States Navy Rear Admiral

Robert E. Lee (1807–1870), was the son of Henry Lee III, and probably the most famous member of the Lee family. He served as Confederate general in the United States Civil War and President of Washington and Lee University, which was named for him and for George Washington. Washington and Lee University houses Lee Chapel, burial site of several members of the Lee family, as well as the Lee Family Digital Archive.

He was married to Mary Anna Randolph Custis,[8] who was a granddaughter of Martha Washington and also was Lee's third cousin once removed through Richard Lee II, fourth cousin through William Randolph, and third cousin through Robert Carter I.

R. E. Lee's children included George Washington Custis Lee and William H. Fitzhugh Lee. Other Lee relations who were General Officers during the Civil War were Fitzhugh Lee (Confederate Army), Samuel Phillips Lee (US Navy); Richard Lucian Page (Confederate Army and Navy); Edwin Gray Lee (Confederate Army), Richard L. T. Beale (Confederate army), Maurice Thompson (Confederate Army), and Will H Thompson (Confederate Army). Indirect relations of R.E.Lee who were C.S. General Officers were William N. Pendleton and Virginia Military Institute graduate William H. F. Payne.[9] Two other Civil War Generals who were related to Lee was George B. Crittenden (CS) and Thomas Leonidas Crittenden (US) whose mother Sarah O. Lee was a great-great-granddaughter of Richard Lee I "the Founder". A son of Thomas Crittenden was John Jordan Crittenden III killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. A distant Lee relation was US Admiral Willis A. Lee of Kentucky.

Later Generations

Francis Preston Blair Lee (1857–1944), known as "Blair Lee," was a United States Senator from Maryland and a great-grandson of Richard Henry Lee.
Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr., USN; circa 1942.

Francis Preston Blair Lee (1857–1944) was a Democratic member of the United States Senate, representing the State of Maryland from 1914–1917. He was also the great-grandson of American patriot Richard Henry Lee, father of E. Brooke Lee comptroller of Maryland and "Father of Silver Spring" and grandfather of Blair Lee III, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland from 1971–1979 and Acting Governor of Maryland from 1977–1979.[10]

Judge Charles Carter Lee, a direct descendant of Henry Lee III (Lighthorse Harry), was selected to represent the United States at the 2008 Olympic Games as the United States Olympic Committee's Chef de Mission. Judge Lee, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge since 1989, was also involved with the 1984 Summer Olympics as he headed a delegation sent to China after the Soviet Union announced a plan to boycott the Olympics in Los Angeles. These talks concluded with China's formal agreement in writing to participate in the 1984 Olympics. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's mother was born Janet Lee and claimed to be part of the family. It was later proven that she was not.

Family tree

Below is a list of notable male members of the Lee family, beginning with Virginia Governor Thomas Lee:

NOTE: U.S. Representative David Dreier also claims to be a distant relative of Richard Bland Lee. Zachary Taylor was also nephew by marriage of Maryland House Delegates Benjamin Mackall IV[27] and Thomas Mackall.[28]

See also


  1. William Thorndale, "The Parents of Colonel Richard Lee of Virginia," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 76 (December 1988): 253–68
  2. Alan James Nicholls, "Collections for the Ancestry of Colonel Richard Lee, Virginia Emigrant", published at LULU.COM (June 2011)
  3. Harrison Dwight Cavanagh, Colonial Chesapeake Families: British Origins and Descendants, Vol. 2 (Dallas, Tex.: p. p., 2014), 118-125, esp. 119.
  4. Richard Bland Lee 5th (1930-2012), "[Lee Family Genealogical Research]" (2009-2013); folder: "Lee: Virginia," vertical files; R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston.
  5. HISTORY STRATFORD Thomas Lee 1690–1750
  6. Her first cousin twice removed was Benjamin Harrison V
  7. Shippen's father, Continental Congressman William Shippen, was a cousin of Peggy Shippen wife of Benedict Arnold
  8. http://www.nps.gov/frsp/fitzchm.htm
  9. A possible relation was Colonel William R. Lee of the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry who was descended from Henry Lee who died 1675 in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Possibly Henry Lee was descended either from Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley or possibly related to Colonel Richard Lee of Virginia .p.3-but no proof either way
  10. Rasmussen, Frederick N. (2011-08-13). "Mathilde B. "Mimi" Lee, former acting first lady of Maryland, dies at 91". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
  11. http://www.nndb.com/people/925/000049778/
  12. http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/lee4.html#R9M0J3WQK
  13. http://millercenter.org/academic/americanpresident/washington/essays/cabinet/112
  14. http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/lee7.html#R9M0J3X8A
  15. http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/taylor9.html#RAU1DK7S1
  16. http://ngeorgia.com/ang/Jefferson_Davis
  17. http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=L000189
  18. http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/taylor3.html#02S1A5NUB
  19. http://www.nga.org/portal/site/nga/menuitem.29fab9fb4add37305ddcbeeb501010a0/?vgnextoid=d7b8fcf1dafd5010VgnVCM1000001a01010aRCRD
  20. http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=L000208
  21. http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/lee3.html#03919U7RY
  22. http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/lee1.html#RL20NFXLI
  23. http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/lee3.html#S3Q0K8E6H
  24. http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/major.html#RIO0QXQJO
  25. http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/woody-worthey.html#RKS1AM034
  26. http://www.statesurge.com/members/114884-victor-d-crist-florida
  27. http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/mackay.html#1LX0VDG40
  28. http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/mackay.html#1LX0Z7BUW

Further reading

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