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Well Said: Paving the way for future leaders

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Howard Lee becoming the first black mayor of a majority-white city in the South. On this episode of Well Said, Lee details his journey to the Chapel Hill mayor's office.

Howard LeeGrowing up in a segregated Georgia in the 1940s, Howard Lee didn’t know where his life would lead, but eventually, it led him to earn a master’s degree from the UNC School of Social Work in 1966.

“The students in the School of Social Work embraced us, and we just simply didn’t feel any different from any other student,” Lee said. “That started me on a road of feeling recertified as a person.”

But outside the classroom, Lee and his family continued to feel the racial tensions they experienced in Georgia. It was this tension that pushed him to run for mayor of the town in 1969.

“I decided to run for mayor not so much to win — because I didn’t think a black person would be elected mayor in Chapel Hill — but to make a point to push certain issues that needed to be dealt with,” Lee said.

Lee’s victory helped to pave the way for future black leaders.

On this episode of Well Said, Lee details living life in the segregated South and his path to the mayor’s office.

Listen to the episode on SoundCloud or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Read a transcript of this episode.

Join us every Wednesday for Well Said to hear from students, faculty, staff and alumni. Each week, you’ll learn what’s going on in classrooms, labs and around campus, and how it pertains to the local, national and international headlines.