DUNHAM--Robert Lee Robert Lee Dunham, affectionately known as Lee, the son of the late Colena Elizabeth Dunham and Albert Dunham, was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina on September 12, 1932. He transitioned from this life to his eternal home on Tuesday, May 17, 2011. At an early age, Lee moved to Brooklyn, New York. Following graduation from High School he enlisted in the United States Air Force. Not long after completing a term of service with the Air Force, Lee returned to Brooklyn and joined the New York City Police Department's Motorcycle Division. While working for the NYPD, Lee also matriculated at John Jay School of Criminal Justice. He proudly served New York City as a police officer for 20 years until retiring from the force. In 1972, Lee Dunham began his second career as a McDonald's Owner/Operator. He made history by opening the first McDonald's restaurant in Manhattan, and went on to operate seven McDonald's locations in New York and Northern New Jersey. Lee was an exemplary leader and mentor in the McDonald's system for over 39 years. He was one of the founding members of the National Black McDonald's Operators Association (NBMOA), serving as its President from 1982-1986, and was the organization's Chairman Emeritus. A tireless advocate on behalf of minorities, Lee successfully helped many to acquire McDonald's franchises and/or become National McDonald's suppliers. He made training and mentoring a lifelong priority, and was known throughout the McDonald's family for his passion of the brand and as a guiding counselor to others. Lee was also famous for asking tough questions and always advising everyone to do the â€œright thing.â€� His leadership in the McDonald's system was second to none and he was considered a true pioneer. During his stellar career Lee Dunham amassed numerous awards including: McDonald's Corporation Ronald Award McDonald's Corporation Golden Arch Award The Extraordinary Trailblazer Award from National Black McDonald's Operators The Black Businessman of the Year Award Samuel D. Proctor Phoenix Award from Abyssinian Development Corporation New York Urban League's Building Brick Award African American Male Empowerment Summit Entrepreneur Award, and The Public Advocate's New York City Advocate Award. Lee Dunham leaves behind to cherish his memory; his devoted wife, Linda; two sons, Bradley Jay Dunham and Brian Hairston (Candace); a brother, Bill R. Dunham (Barbara) of Burlington, NJ; sister, Lillie Mae Douglas of Kannapolis, NC; two granddaughters, Brianna and Courtney Hairston; and Sister in Law, Delores Washington of Alpharetta, GA; Brothers-in-law, John Hairston (Kathy) and Gerald Wayne Hairston of Charlotte, NC; nephews; William Dunham (Patsy) and Wynton Dunham (Marilyn) of Burlington, NJ; and Craig Dunham of London, England, Eric Newland of Greensboro, NC, Gregg Newland (Yolanda), John Hairston, Jr., Gerald Wayne Hairston, Jr. and Jeffrey Hairston all of Charlotte, NC;. nieces, Betty Dunham of Philadelphia, PA and Rheayanna Dunham of Hyland Park, NJ., Regina Hairston Jones (Edward) of Augusta, GA, and Jennifer Hairston of Charlotte, NC; and a host of aunts, cousins, relatives and friends who loved him dearly. He was predeceased by his brother John Wesley Dunham. Viewing and visitation will be held on Monday, May 23rd 2011 at Abyssinian Baptist Church 132 Odell Clark Place, New York, NY. Viewing from 10:00am to 11:00am. Funeral immediately following.
Published in New York Times on May 22, 2011.