As I mentioned in the May issue, my longtime friend McDowell Lee died on April 17 at his home in Auburn, Ala. Mac, as he was known to family and friends, had a long and distinguished career. In fact, even before 1963, when he was elected Secretary of the Alabama Senate, Mac already had a most interesting career. He had served in the U.S. Navy and also as a head high school football coach, a mayor, a banker and as an FBI agent. But most of his life was spent in Alabama’s political life. Mac was best known as the Secretary of the Alabama Senate, where he spent 47 years. His was a national record for tenure. During his time as Secretary of the Senate, Mac received hundreds of awards and recognitions over the years. He truly loved the Senate and its traditions.
Mac was extremely knowledgeable about all facets of Alabama history. You could ask him a question about any subject from any era in Alabama history, and you would get a prompt and accurate answer. Mac could also tell you in detail about every important vote in the Alabama Senate. His memory for detail was unbelievable.
Mac was a master Parliamentarian and his skills in that arena won him national acclaim. Mac’s reverence and obedience to the rules, procedures and traditions of the Alabama Senate were unparalleled. He could not tolerate a member of the Senate who would knowingly violate the rules. Neither did he have any respect for a senator who would not take the time required to learn the rules. There have been a few who fall in that category. Mac’s reputation for fairness and impartiality won him tremendous respect by both senators and lobbyists. The latter group’s work required a presence in and around the Senate Chamber. They all knew not to cross Mr. Lee and to follow the rules that governed lobbyists.
I can say without reservation that McDowell Lee was a great man who truly loved his job as Secretary of the Senate. Perhaps the best thing I can say about Mac is that he was a loyal friend. I have never known a person who was more loyal to his friends and who would stand up for them regardless of the circumstances. Over the years, I never had a better friend nor a more trusted advisor.
Mac took an inexperienced young lawyer from Barbour County, who had been elected Lt. Governor, and spent weeks teaching him the rules of the Senate. I will never forget that experience. I will miss Mac greatly, as will all who knew him. To say that this man from Barbour County is a legend is as accurate a statement as I could make.
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