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Dr Robert Lee passes on

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The family of Dr Robert Edward Lee, announced his death at his home in Labone Estate on June 5, 2010.

He was 90.

A statement issued and copied to Ghana News Agency on Monday said an African American by birth, Dr Lee, a dentist, moved with his wife, Dr Sara Lee, also a dentist, and their children to Ghana at the time of Independence.

Influenced by his 1930s Lincoln University schoolmate, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Dr Lee made the decision to emigrate in answer to Nkrumah’s call to Diasporans to help build Ghana. His contributions to Ghana’s medical community as well as in social and cultural activities would be long remembered.

Dr Lee was affectionately called Bobbie Lee by many and known as Uncle Bobbie to close friends.

Uncle Bobbie was born on May 13, 1920, the eighth of 12 siblings to Samuel Eugene and Emily Holmes Lee of Charleston, South Carolina, USA.  He attended Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, where he met Ghana’s First President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

He also attended Meharry Medical College, Nashville Tennessee, where he met Sara Archie, and received a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1944.  He married Sara Archie in 1944.

That union produced two sons: Robert Lowry (Kojo) Lee (now deceased); and Jeffrey Randall Lee, who is currently living in Richmond, Virginia, USA.

A strong supporter of the civil rights movement in the US and Pan-African developments in Africa in the 1950s, Uncle Bobbie first traveled to the Gold Coast in 1953, to assess what contribution he could make to the soon-to-be-independent Ghana.

In 1956, he and his family moved to Accra. In 1959 he formally became a Ghanaian citizen, and in 1960 he was appointed as Nana Yao Jekete Odum I, Okyeame of Aprede, by the Chief of Aprede. Dr Lee took an active role in the medical community, establishing the first African-American owned private dental clinic in Osu, which he operated until 2002.

Uncle Bobbie’s love for Africa was expressed through many activities and projects too numerous to mention. He organised to create a memorial and location for the interment of noted African American scholar and Pan-Africanist, Dr W. E. B. Du Bois.  Uncle Bobbie was a Founding Member of the Du Bois Centre and its Board of Directors, an organisation that he supported actively until his death.

Dr Lee was Founder of the African Descendents Association Foundation, through which he solicited support from Diasporan Africans to restore Fort Abandze (Fort Amsterdam) to serve as a museum, educational institution and historical marker to the experiences of displaced Africans and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

Along with his wife Sara, Uncle Bobbie also established a Student Hostel Programme and Guest House to provide subsidised housing for students from other African countries studying in Ghana.

Dr Lee invested in agriculture, establishing Leekrom Farm at the foot of the Aprede Mountains.

An avid golfer, Dr Lee was a long-time member of the Achimota Golf Club and Ghana Golfers

Association and could be seen completing the course at Achimota Golf Course every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon.

He launched the first golf driving range in Accra at the Africa Lake site close to the Trade Fair Centre.

Uncle Bobbie also made significant contributions to music in Ghana, often singing his broad repertoire of spirituals and classics at the Ridge Church, on Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) TV, and at numerous other gatherings.

Dr Lee was fittingly recognised for his numerous contributions to the Ghanaian society through the awarding of an honorary doctoral degree by the University of Ghana, Legon, in 2008. Of greatest pride to him upon receiving the honorary doctorate was that he was the only second American, to be so honored, the first having been his dear friend Dr W.E.B. Du Bois in 1963.

Dr Lee’s final contribution to his beloved Ghana, which occurred two days before his death, was a donation of GH¢3,000, received from well-wishers for his recent 90th birthday, to the building campaign of the University of Ghana Dental School.

In his later years, he was the resident historian, spending hours talking to a broad spectrum of Diasporan Africans, residents, visitors, journalists, and scholars about civil rights, Africans’ struggle for independence, current events and his understanding of Africa’s political and social policies and programmes.

Always joking and jovial, Uncle Bobbie was a great story-teller and person of immense generosity and hospitality, regularly entertaining and providing accommodations to long-time friends and family members.

His wit, courage and resilience are legendary. He was a one-of-a-kind Renaissance man of vision and great pride, who touched, influenced, and inspired many people in his lifetime.

Uncle Bobby was predeceased by his wife, Sara Archie, and son, Robert Lowry (Kojo) Lee.  He is survived by his son, Jeffrey Randall Lee (Ellen); daughter-in-law Naa Ofeibia Sakwamante Lee (widow of son R.L. Lee); sister, Phyllis LaRouche; brother, Reginald H. Lee (Katherine); grandchildren Nana Yao Ababio Lee, Irma Araba Mansa Lee Akwei (Roosevelt), Shekela Marquise Lee, Naa Kwale Sackey (Pierre); two great-grandchildren, Sequoia Lee and Katrina Morkor Sackey; devoted housekeeper, Georgina Viidaa; and numerous nieces, nephews, other relatives, extended family and friends.

Uncle Bobbie is irreplaceable.  He would be sorely missed, but his memory would live in our hearts forever.

Funeral arrangements would be announced later.

Source: GNA

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  1. Dr. Lee lived his life well. He was a great example. He is a treasure of Ghana and the US. He will forever be missed and loved. Remel K. Moore

  2. Dentist, Dr. Robert Lee (1920-2010) is a Soul resting with the Ancestors. Well done thou good and faithful servant.

    The African American Association of Ghana invited me to a Centenary Memorial Serivce to honour the life and work of WEB Dubois during 2008 in Accra, Ghana on the site of the Dubois residence. Dr. Lee was born in South Carolina USA, and one of the guest speakers for the occasion.

    Although he was frail he spoke clearly about racial bias in the United States, Africa (Ghana) and his relationship with President Kwame Nkrumah. Lee also referred to his contributions, as a dentist, for the betterment of Public Health Services in Ghana and West Africa. It was during the close of the Memorial Service that I met Dr. Roberrt Lee.

    Dr. Lee was one of the founders of the Dental School at the University of Ghana. During 2008 he was honoured by the University of Ghana for his Public Service to the Nation. At the same time Kofi Annan was installed as new Chancellor of Legon.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

    I.M. Spence-Lewis MD

  3. very said news for the people of Ghana.