July 23, 1928 – May 24, 2023
Lee was involved in many releases from the Strata-East jazz record label, including directing the 1980 album The New York Bass Violin Choir.
William James Edwards Lee was born in Snow Hill, Alabama, in 1928, the son of Alberta Grace (Edwards), a concert pianist, and Arnold Wadsworth Lee, a musician.
In 1951, he graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He married his college sweetheart who was enrolled at a neighboring college, Jacqueline (Jackie) Shelton, a 1954 Spelman College graduate.
With his first wife, Jackie, he had five children; film director Spike Lee (born 1957), Christopher (born 1959, died 2014), still photographer David Lee (born 1961), actress Joie Lee (born 1962), and filmmaker Cinqué Lee (born 1966).
The family moved to Fort Greene, Brooklyn, in 1959. With his second wife, Susan, he had one son, Arnold Lee, who plays alto saxophone.
Lee was arrested on October 25, 1991, in Fort Greene for carrying a small bag of heroin during a police drug sweep of a park near his home. Lee would later say of his arrest, “I’m glad I was arrested, It woke me up.” Lee died at his home in Fort Greene on May 24, 2023, at the age of 94.