Robert E. Lee Additional Biography

Biography

Robert Edwin Lee began his lifetime of education and writing in his hometown, Elyria, Ohio, and then proceeded to Northwestern (1934) and Ohio Wesleyan (1935-1937) Universities. His father, Claire Melvin Lee, was an engineer, and Lee may have inherited his interest in writing from his mother, Elvira Lee Taft, a teacher. After graduating from college, Lee worked from 1938 to 1942 as an executive at the advertising firm of Young and Rubicam in New York City. He was appointed expert consultant to the secretary of war in 1942, and he also served in the U.S. Air Force from 1943 to 1944, during which time he and his collaborator Jerome Lawrence cofounded Armed Forces Radio, producing the official Army-Navy radio programs for D day, V-E Day, and V-J Day. His position as an important American dramatist is guaranteed by his voluminous output of works, including the controversial classic Inherit the Wind, the well-known The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, Auntie Mame, and thirty more major theater productions. His and Lawrence’s plays have been adapted as films and have been translated into thirty-two languages.

Lee and Lawrence’s best-known work, Inherit the Wind, represents a response to McCarthyism and the suppression of freedom of thought and expression, important issues for Lee, as a dramatist and writer and a believer in constitutional rights. This play, among others, pinpoints the paradox of individual freedom in a society that appears to condone it, yet insists on conformity to the majority. In the play, the events of the 1925 Scopes trial (Tennessee v. John Scopes, a high school biology teacher charged with illegally...

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Biography

(Comprehensive Guide to Military History)

0111325213-Lee.jpg (Corbis) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Article abstract: Military significance: As commander of the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia from 1862 to 1865, Lee executed the offensive component of the Confederacy’s strategy. His battlefield successes kept the Confederacy militarily viable, preserving its prospects for independence.

The son of Henry Lee, a war hero of the American Revolution, Robert E. Lee graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1829, then served with distinction in the peacetime army and the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and as superintendent of West Point. The secession of eleven Southern states created a quandary for Lee, a slaveholder and a Virginian but a veteran soldier, whose father helped found the United States. Offered command of the volunteer army raised to quell secession and restore those states—including Virginia—to the Union, Lee sided instead with the Old Dominion.

The first year of the American Civil War (1861-1865) did little to enhance his prewar reputation. First, he was unsuccessful in securing control of western Virginia. He found himself advising Confederate President Jefferson Davis on military matters, not assuming another field assignment until the Union army approached the gates of Richmond, Virginia, in May, 1862, and the Confederate field commander, Joseph Eggleston Johnston, was wounded. Assuming command, Lee attacked his powerful nemesis and, in a series of successive battles styled the Seven Days’ Battles, induced Union commander George B. McClellan to withdraw his forces to the Chesapeake.

Moving swiftly northward, Lee led his army to a smashing victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 29-30, 1862, and then moved his army into...

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Bibliography

Cornelius, R. M. William Jennings Bryan and the Scopes Trial, and “Inherit the Wind.” Dayton, Tenn.: William Jennings Bryan College, 1995. This volume presents background on the fundamentalist argument, William Jennings Bryan, and John Scopes and the criticism of Jerome Lawrence and Lee’s interpretation of events in their play.

Matlaw, Myron. “Lee, Robert E(dwin).” In Modern World Drama. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1972. A good biographical account of Lee.

Winchester, Mark D. “Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee: A Classified Bibliography.” Studies in American Drama, 1945-Present 7 (1992): 88-160. An exhaustive bibliography of both authors.

Woods, Alan. Selected Plays of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1995. Includes a foreword by Norman Cousins and a bibliography.