Olin L. Gammage & Sons Funeral Home - Cedartown
106 N. College Street P.O. Box 718
Cedartown, GA 30125
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Heslip Lee

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Heslip Lee Obituary

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LEE, Heslip Rev. Heslip "Happy" Lee (February 21, 1922 - May 26, 2011) Heslip "Happy" Lee, 89, of Cedartown, GA, left this world on May 26, 2011. Happy was born near Dugdown Mountain in Polk County Georgia in 1922. His parents were Malbert Warren Lee and Mary Camp Lee of Polk County. He is survived by his dear wife of 69 years, Laura McClung Lee; a sister, Virginia Bailey, of Carrollton; four children, Dwain H Lee of Cedartown, Glenn L Lee of Atlanta, Joan Lee Clark of Calhoun and Laurie S Lee of Cedartown; He is predeceased by a son, DVM Stephen F Lee of Alpharetta, GA. He is also survived by six grandchildren and six great grandchildren. He is predeceased by one grandchild, Joseph T Lee, of Cedartown. Happy was born the son of a tenant farmer into the poverty of the Great Depression in rural Georgia. At 29, he sold everything he owned, and with his wife and three children, left his "three county world" to seek a formal education. His early life was steeped in a Primitive Baptist Christian fundamentalist world view, but he went on to graduate from Colgate Rochester Divinity School, a non-denominational seminary in Rochester, NY. His education led him to question his upbringing, both religious and cultural, and he soon found himself in the middle of the civil rights and race relations movements of the 1960s. During his distinguished career in civil rights, Happy was involved in the desegregation of schools, hotels, restaurants, theaters and ball parks in Richmond, VA and other cities in the South. His affable character and quick wit made him a natural conciliator because of his uuncanny ability to make everyone feel at ease. His life was inspiring and involved working with the Kennedy Administration, Bobby Kennedy, Thurgood Marshall, the Lyndon Johnson Administration and Martin Luther King to implement the policies of the Civil Rights Act and the War on Poverty. While serving as Executive Director of the Virginia Council on Human Relations, he was involved in the reopening of the public schools in Prince Edward County Virginia in 1964 that had been closed for five years rather than desegregate as ordered by the US Supreme Court. This was perhaps the crown jewel accomplishment of his life. He also served on the faculty of Mercer University in Macon, GA, Shaw University in Raleigh, NC and Georgia State University in Atlanta. He often said that he spent his entire life fighting three things: poverty, racism and fun DA Mentalism, which he defined as "those people who damn others for having religious beliefs different from their own". In 2004, Happy was honored by the Gandhi Foundation of America with the Gandhi Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2005, his life story was chronicled in "Happy Warrior, The Legend of Happy Lee". His life work/papers have been archived by Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Link to that website: http://www.library.vcu.edu/jbc/speccoll/happy.html. Happy retired back to his roots in Polk County in 1977 and raised cattle, ran a jewelry store, and reignited the Polk County Democratic Party in Cedartown, GA; as well as accepting numerous assignments with the American Baptist Interim Minister Program at churches in New York (Buffalo, Glens Falls, & NYC), Boston, and Salt Lake City. The viewing will be at Gammage and Son's Funeral Home, 106 North College St, Cedartown, GA on Saturday, May 28, 2011 from six o'clock in the evening until eight o'clock in the evening. The funeral will be at Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 2:00 PM at Cedartown First Baptist Church, 101 North College Street, Cedartown, GA. Dwain H. Lee will be officiating. Interment will follow in Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made in his name to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington St, Montgomery, AL 36104 or on-line at https://secure.splcenter.org/dona tions/donate/overview. The following gentlemen have been asked to serve as pallbearers; Joshua Lee, Warren Lee, Kevin Clark, Joe Dan Walker, Daryl Roberts and Marvin Williams. Please express your condolences by visiting our website and signing the on-line guestbook at gammagefh.com. The Olin L. Gammage and Sons Funeral Home is handling the arrangements for Mr. Heslip "Happy" Lee.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on May 28, 2011
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