Norman Ray Lee October 28, 1937-
September 17, 2013
The Honorable Norman R. Lee, a 15 year veteran both as a district and Senior Justice of the 14th Texas Court of Appeals passed peacefully into the arms of his Lord & Savior on the evening of September 17, fully enveloped in the love of his wife Mary Lee, daughters Telina Lee Armstrong, Lisa Lee Wilson, and son Mingo Lee by his bedside.
The final and lasting chapters of life are bittersweet, especially for the natural born storyteller whose vivid stories live on and on…in the retelling.
Norman was born to Luther A. "Lonnie" Lee and Argie Scarber Lee in Iowa Park, TX, near the Texas-Oklahoma border. He was the youngest of three siblings. His father was a grand storyteller and Norman learned how to spin a "tall tale." Norman's ancestors were among the tribes forcibly relocated during the brutal "Trail of Tears." Norman's noble and stoic demeanor, belief in fairness and truth, and his innate sense of justice have perhaps evolved from these roots.
Norman graduated from Iowa Park High School and excelled in sports. Judge Lee was a starting defensive back for the Hawks 10-1 District Champion football team in 1956, a member of the 4 x 400m relay team, and received his Eagle Scout on Feb. 3, 1955.
He attended The University of Texas
on a tennis scholarship and graduated from Midwestern State University with honors in 1960. He worked summers in Texas oil fields as a "roughnecker" to pay for his undergraduate degree. After college, Judge Lee became a Specialist Third Class in the United States Army
. After attending basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, Judge Lee was stationed at Fort Hood, a United States Army Post in Killeen, Texas, where he would serve as a member of the 49th Armored Division.
After serving he went to work at the Houston Light and Power Company. One day he walked by the law school and decided that's what he wanted to do. Attending law school in the evenings and working full time, he received his J.D. degree with honors from South Texas College of Law in 1965, finishing third in his class, and received the E.E. Townes Award for Scholastic Achievement.
Norman began practicing law with the firm Haynes & Fullenweider from 1966-1972. "Judge Lee was a good man, a good law partner, a good, fair judge, and a great lawyer," Haynes said. He worked along with and was mentored by Richard "Racehorse" Haynes, Don Fullenweider, and Joe Jamail. Norman remained in private practice until 1979 when he was appointed by Judge Sam Emison as Associate Judge of the 257th State District Court. After Judge Emison died, he was appointed Presiding Judge of the 257th by Governor Mark White in 1983. Judge Lee was voted Outstanding Family Law Judge by the Houston Bar Association every year from 1984 through 1992. He was twice re-elected without opposition. He was elected Justice 14th Court of Appeals in 1992 and at the time of his death was a Senior Justice on the Court and served as a visiting judge. He was a member of the State Bar of Texas and board certified in family law, the Houston Bar Association-Family Law Section, a Fellow of Texas Bar Association and a member of Gulf Coast Family Law Specialists.
Norman's family was the most important to him. He was immediately smitten the first time he saw a beautiful dance instructor, Mary Matthews, and she the same when she looked into Norman's piercing blue eyes. Their pride and dedication to their family (daughters, Telina and Lisa, and son, Mingo) defines the term family values - they valued family above all else. Norman coached all his kids' sports teams and took immense pride in his children and later their children. He once said that "Children were the only thing really worth investing in," and he loved to brag on his children.
A master at telling stories, he'd tell stories that would draw you in, keep your attention, and take you on a journey. They were "spellbinding" in realistic detail, yet often funny and full of self-mirth.
Norman Lee truly "walked" his faith and was very active and involved in his church. Norman was an avid golfer and could "shoot his age" (or below) well into his '70's. Play 18 holes with him and you'd get to hear 18 different stories.
Norman Lee is remembered as a fine lawyer, but he is known, and will always be known, as a great judge, and one of the best trial judges in Texas. Norman Lee was a man of great character and high integrity.
His beloved grandchildren, faces bright and eyes shining with love, called out to him in his final hours, "We love you Paw-Paw."
The final words in the last chapter of life are always bittersweet. But a storyteller's life lives on in memories of a story told, and retold.
Norman Ray Lee is survived by his beloved wife Mary Lee, daughters Telina Lee Armstrong, Mike Armstrong, Lisa Lee Wilson and husband Craig, son Norman Mingo Lee, brother Larry Lee and wife Rosemary, niece Allison Lee Gilmore and husband Jackie, and brother-in-law Dr. John Stephens.
Grandchildren: Lauren Garrow & husband Adam, Demi Lee Wilson Sander & husband Johannes, Michael Armstrong, MaryClaire Wilson, Ava Wilson.
Great Grandchildren: Addison & Finn Garrow, Maximilian Sander.
He was preceded in death by his parents Lonnie & Argie Scarber Lee and sister Ava Nell Stephens.
Special thanks: to sister-in-law Shirley Powell, Marshall & Loraine Powell, Phillip & Amy Matthews and Sharon Holder.
Marta K. Mattox of Austin, TX, a loving friend, wrote this story as a tribute.
Services for Judge Norman R. Lee:
FRIDAY, SEPTEMER 27th, 2013 GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH, 1021 Campbell Rd. Houston, TX (713)465-4252
Visitation: 4-6pm. Service: 6pm. Burial & Graveside Service: Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 at 1pm Patriot's Hill Texas State Cemetery 909 Navasota St. Austin, Texas 78702
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the HJWC Charitable Fund, PO Box 19684, Houston, Texas, 77224.