Walter Smith Lee

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Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection, UNCAsheville Ramsey Library
Walter Smith Lee with faculty of Catholic Hill School: bhcp77.

Professor Walter Smith Lee was born August 8, 1867 in Sinclair, Tenn. He came to Asheville sometime during the last part of the 19th century, and immediately became involved in the civic and educational affairs of Asheville.

Mr. Lee was very well educated, having received degrees from Morristown College, Morristown, Tenn., Livingston College, Salisbury, N.C., Columbia University in New York, and Chicago University.

Professor Lee served as principal of Catholic Hill School until it was destroyed by fire in 1917, after which he continued to provide instructions in makeshift buildings until the new 19 classroom building was constructed on Catholic Ave. This new school was named Stephens-Lee School, in honor of the school's original principle Edward Stephens, and deceased 1st wife of Walter Lee, Mrs. Hester Ford Lee, a former primary grade teacher.

Stephens-Lee originally offered a curriculum from grades one through nine, but in 1924, the school graduated its first "four year" high school class, and in 1925 the school was accredited by the North Carolina State Department of Education.

Walter Smith Lee, along with his many civic interests, served as principal of Stephens-Lee High School, from 1910 until his death in 1934, at the age of 67. Professor Lee will always be remembered as the man that started the blacks of Asheville thinking in terms of getting a good education and becoming aware of their civic responsibilities. Walter Smith Lee is gone, but not forgotten.


W. S. Lee, obituary

Asheville suffers a severe loss in the death of Principal W. S. Lee of Stephens-Lee High School, for a generation one of the leading Negro educators of the South, a man who won and held the esteem of his fellow-citizens of both races.

Principal Lee was a follower of Booker Washington in the emphasis he placed upon teaching his people dignity and self-respect. His conceptions of the Negro's opportunities and responsibilities made him a valuable member of the Asheville Interracial Commission, and on that body his counsel was always sound and constructive.

A good citizen, and able teacher, Principal Lee leaves behind him a character and an influence which will long continue to work for good in this community.