Vernon "Lee" Bounds

Vernon Leland "Lee" Bounds

OCTOBER 13, 1918 - FEBRUARY 10, 2016

Chapel Hill

Vernon Leland "Lee" Bounds, former commissioner of the North Carolina Department of Correction and a longtime educator and public servant of the state, died at age 97 on Feb. 10 in his Chapel Hill, North Carolina home.

During his distinguished career, Bounds led and instituted substantial reforms within the correction system while working for North Carolina governors on both sides of the political aisle, including Daniel K. Moore, Robert W. Scott, James Holshouser Jr., and James G. Martin. Bounds, a Democrat, was a staunch advocate for the rehabilitation of criminals, and after putting down a riot that lasted more than 13 hours at Central Prison in Raleigh on April 17, 1968, he proposed new correctional programs to help prevent future insurrections.

Born Oct. 13, 1918 in Salisbury, Maryland, Bounds was the son of the late Floyd Solon and Lula F. German. His mother died of pneumonia and influenza when Bounds was 17 days old during a flu epidemic that raged in the latter part of World War I. Bounds later was cared for by his grandmother Olevia Culver Bounds and in his teenage years worked delivering newspapers and running films at the Elkton movie theater.

Bounds joined the Navy in 1936 and was stationed in San Diego, California; Bremerton, Washington and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii where he was a member of the wrestling squad on the battleship Oklahoma. He married Barbara Namais in 1938 on New Year's Eve and had two children, Barbara Lee and Michael Frederick. Bounds enlistment ended in 1941, but he remained in the Navy Reserve and returned to service after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

After leaving the Navy, Bounds studied law and received a bachelor of laws degree from the University of Virginia in 1949 and performed graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Chicago.

Bounds moved to Chapel Hill with his family to become assistant director of the Institute of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was a professor of public law and government at the Institute from 1952 to 1965 and helped draft many of the criminal correction laws enacted by the state legislature in the 1950s.

Bounds was appointed commissioner of the North Carolina Department of Correction in 1965 and held this role until 1973. Afterward, he served as the William Rand Kenan Jr. professor of public law and administration at UNC-Chapel Hill until 1986 when he retired. A Margaret and Paul A. Johnston distinguished professorship was named for V. Lee Bounds in the disciplines of Physics and Astronomy at UNC's College of Arts & Sciences.

Upon retiring, Bounds split his time between Chapel Hill and Oriental, North Carolina where his family gathered for sailing and other recreation. However, in 1992, Bounds briefly left retirement after receiving a call from Governor Martin to join his cabinet and assume the position of Secretary of the North Carolina State Department of Correction. Bounds held the post until Governor James B. Hunt Jr. assumed office in 1993.

Bounds is preceded in death by his former wives Barbara Namais and Marjorie Sorrel, his siblings Vivian Loraine and Floyd Solon and grandchildren Michael Wayne Wilson and Deborah Christine Wilson.

He is survived by his children Barbara (Bobbi) Bounds Embree and Dr. Michael F. Bounds, granddaughter Gwendolyn M. Bounds, great-grandchildren Mary Elizabeth (Emme) Wilson and Michael W. Wilson Jr., and his longtime love and companion, Edith Hubbard.

Upon his death, Bounds asked that his body be donated to the UNC School of Medicine to support education and research at the public institution he loved and served throughout much of his adult life.

Published in The News & Observer from Feb. 16 to Feb. 21, 2016