Thursday, December 8, 2022
Robert Lee, County’s First Black Battalion Chief, Passes Away
By Sentinel News Service
Published July 7, 2022

Chief Robert Lee (Courtesy photo)

Robert Lee, who passed away on June 22, served Los Angeles County for 37 years with the last 31 years as a professional firefighter with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Chief Lee was promoted through the Los Angeles County Fire Department as a firefighter paramedic, firefighter specialist, captain, battalion chief, assistant fire chief, and deputy fire chief. As a deputy fire chief, Chief Lee served in Administrative Services and the Prevention Bureau, respectively.

In 1984, Chief Lee became the first African American Battalion Chief in the history of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. He was later promoted twice to Assistant Fire Chief and then to Deputy Fire Chief, again becoming the first African American to ever hold the positions in the department.


Chief Lee demonstrated a strong commitment to the community and its citizens throughout his career.  As a chief officer, Chief Lee was assigned to the San Gabriel Valley. Under his leadership, his division was the first in the county to institute the “RESCUE Youth Program”, a countywide Fire Department/District Attorney partnership to mentor “at risk” youth.  Chief Lee was also a member of the Altadena/Crown City Kiwanis Club for over 40 years.

Chief Robert Lee (Coutresy photo)

Chief Lee received his formal education in the Los Angeles City School System, graduating from Manual Arts High School in 1963, he then graduated from California State University, Los Angeles, with a degree in Fire Protection Engineering.

While with the Fire Department, Chief Lee attended numerous classes at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He also participated in the Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program. Prior to serving the County of Los Angeles, Chief Lee served in the United States Air Force for four years.

Chief Lee was married to his beautiful wife, Diane Lee, for 52 years. They raised five children together, Detra, Denise, and Eric, Demetria and Antonio, and have several grandchildren and one great grandson.



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