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A decades-old newspaper article described Raymond J. Lee as “a fine gentleman,” and that’s the way he’s being remembered by   those who knew him.

Lee, a life-long Lockport resident who owned Lockport Felt Company, served on several local and state boards, and was an active   member of the Republican party and made countless contributions to area charities. He died Thursday in Eastern Niagara Hospital,   Lockport. He was 94.

“I would say that would really describe Ray,” said David Ulrich. “I knew him my whole life. He was a friend of my father and   we still maintained contact with each other.”

A sports complex on Lincoln Avenue is named after Lee, who donated the land. The Lockport Little League plays its games at   the Ray Lee Complex.

Among the boards on which Lee sat was the New York State Athletic Commission, to which he was appointed by Gov. Rockefeller.   He served from 1962-1972. During that time he was part of a decision that rocked the boxing world.

The same day that Muhammad Ali refused his induction to the U.S. Army, he was arrested and the athletic commission stripped   him of his world heavyweight boxing championship. An article in the April 29, 1967 edition of the New York Times reported   that the commission’s chairman announced it had “unanimously decided to suspend his boxing license indefinitely and to withdraw   recognition of him as world heavyweight champion.”

The commission — which to this day licenses and supervises all promoters, boxers, professional wrestlers, seconds, ring officials,   managers, and matchmakers in the state — cited Ali’s “refusal to enter the service” as “detrimental to the best interests   of boxing.”

Several states followed suit, as did the World Boxing Association. It would be more than three years before Ali could obtain   a new boxing license in any state.

Ali was convicted in June 1967, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision four years later.

Lee’s daughter Laurie remembers her father going to New York City every Friday night for boxing matches.

“My sister went with him once and they had front row seats,” Laurie said. “They had front row seats, and the blood and sweat   was pouring off the mat. It probably wasn’t a great weekend, but she got to spend it with her father,” she said with a laugh.

Locally, Lee served on boards at M&T Bank, YMCA, Lockport Town & Country Club, Tuscarora Club and Niagara County Mental Health.   He later was appointed to the New York State Power Authority.

Ulrich said Lee led “a very interesting life.” Lee’s father was a state senator and in 1929 when Ray was 12, he took his son   and wife on a trip around the world. Lee continued to enjoy traveling throughout his life and had a particular fondness for   Hawaii. Ulrich said just last year Lee returned to Hawaii to visit a friend.

“He loved Hawaii — the beauty and the fishing — and had a trip planned for September,” said Laurie. “it was to be one last   trip, but he’d been planning ‘one last trip’ since 1975.”

Lee was an avid aviator, like his father, and he held his pilot’s license until 1986. Ulrich said Lee used to fly into an   airstrip on Lincoln Avenue near Davison Road. A Rite Aid drug store occupies that site today.

“Both were pilots and loved flying,” Ulrich said, adding Lee had his own airplane and pilot.

Lee was an active member of the Niagara County Republican Committee and delegate to the Republican National Convention in   1956, 1960 and 1964. Ulrich said Lee was the best friend of William E. Miller, also a Lockport native. Miller ran for vice   president as Barry Goldwater’s running mate.

“In fact, the night of the vote tallies of Goldwater versus Johnson, Miller was at Ray Lee’s house on Chestnut Ridge Road,”   Ulrich said. “That’s where their headquarters, for lack of a better word, were the night of the election.”

Laurie recalled several news cameras in the home that night. Then the phone rang.

“I answered the phone and it was Barry Goldwater,” Laurie said. “I was in awe. He did a lot to contribute to the campaign,   and Nelson Rockefeller’s campaign, too.”

Ulrich recalled a story Lee told him from the early 1960s when Miller was Republican National Chairman. Lee was visiting Miller   at the national headquarters when a secretary came in to inform Miller that his 2 p.m. appointment had arrived.

“Miller said, ‘tell him I’ll be with him in a few minutes,’ “ Ulrich recalled. “And Ray said, ‘I’ll leave now.’ But Miller   said he could wait; it wasn’t that important. The person waiting was Ronald Reagan.”

Lee was born in Lockport on Oct. 29, 1917 and attended city schools. He attended Brown University and served in the U.S. Navy   during World War II. He was relieved from active duty in 1945.

Lee owned Lockport Felt Company, which was based in Newfane. He served as its president until it was purchased by Carborundum   in 1969. During his tenure, Lee expanded the company when he built a second plant in western Canada.

Lee and his wife Diane Shardon Lee, whom he married in 1952, had three children together. Diane died in 1974.

Lee supported several area charities and in 1960, he was honored by the Disabled Veterans Association as man of the year.

“Ray was very generous to both the Newfane and Lockport communities,’ Ulrich said. “He gave untold sums of money to benefit   eastern Niagara County. He was a ‘hail fellow well met,’ “ Ulrich added, using a once popular term to describe a friendly   person.

His obituary appears on page 4A of the Aug. 17, 2012 edition of the US&J.

 

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