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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