By Angela Andrews

McDowell Lee, former secretary of the Alabama Senate, passed away last Thursday. Mac Lee, or Mr. Lee as I called him, was the longest serving clerk or secretary in America’s state legislatures. Before he retired in early 2011, Lee served as secretary for 47 years. He was first elected to the position in 1963.  

McDowell LeeBefore serving as secretary, Lee served in the Alabama House of Representatives, was a World War II veteran and mayor of his hometown, Clio, Ala. Lee was also a special agent with the FBI, an unusual job and one not typical for most clerks and secretaries.  

Lee had legislative service in his blood. As report in our blog post from 2007, some member of his family has served as a legislator or staffer in the Alabama Legislature during every decade for the last 100 years.

His contribution to the legislative institution was paramount. From 1976-1977, Lee served as NCSL’s staff chair, the third staff chair in NCSL's history and the first clerk or secretary to fill the position. He was also extremely active with the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries (ASLCS), one of NCSL’s 10 staff sections, and served as president from 1974-1975. He served for 10 years on the Mason’s Manual Revision Commission, responsible for updating the “Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure,” a parliamentary manual used by more than 70 percent of the nation’s legislative chambers. In 1989, Lee received the highest honor bestowed to ASLCS members, the Joseph A. Beek Distinguished Service Award, for his contributions to both ASLCS and NCSL.

Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting Lee, but heard about his character, personality and service at many ASLCS gatherings. It was evident he loved the legislative institution and had a deep respect for the legislative process. I wish I could tell a story or two about him, but I’ll leave that work to his many colleagues and friends from across the country. You can read his full obituary here.

Angela Andrews is the NCSL staff liaison to the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


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