Nancy Harriet Lee, daughter of Mary Elizabeth Butler and Thomas F. Lee, was raised in Bloomingburg, OH. She attended the University of Pittsburgh, intending to be a teacher, but could not fulfill her requirement as a practice teacher because of racial quotas. After this “shocking experience,” she turned instead to social work, ultimately obtaining a master’s degree. She rose high in the Juvenile and the Domestic Relations court systems in Pittsburgh, becoming the first black supervisor in the former. She received numerous community awards and led the drive to fund Pitt’s African Heritage Classroom. She was inspired by Mary McLeod Bethune’s principle, “Each one help one” and once said, “That’s the way we always were as a family, helping each other.”
“We have really come a long way”
Nancy Lee, talking to John Hewitt in 1994, contrasts her paternal grandmother’s harsh experience after the Civil War with the circumstances of African Americans today.