Tom Lee - A Memphis Hero





On May 8, 1925, Tom Lee rescued 32 people from the Mississippi River and became one of Memphis’ greatest heroes.


A boat carrying a group of engineers and their families, in Memphis for the

Mid-South Society of Civil Engineers convention, capsized in the strong river current.

Also traveling on the river was Tom Lee, an African-American levee worker who could not swim.

When he saw the boat capsize, he made several trips to the boat to bring the 32 people to shore.



In 1954, Memphis dedicated the park and an obelisk

(resembling a smaller-scale Washington monument) to Lee.

An inscription on the monument described Lee as "a very worthy negro."


 But Lee's family fought for a life-size statue of the man.


 New Memorial to Local Hero, Tom Lee, to be Unveiled in Special Dedication Ceremony.

Dedication ceremony

What: Dedication of the new Tom Lee statue by artist David Alan Clark

When: 10 a.m. today (10/19/2006)

Where: Tom Lee Park on Riverside Drive


The ceremony concludes a 20-year effort by Lee's family to build a visual

representation of the hero, according to Terry Watts, Tom Lee's great grandnephew.


 The date was May 8, 1925, and Lee was honored as the first black hero in Memphis.   

 To honor the hero, the Memphis Engineers Club raised enough money to

purchase a house for Lee and his wife.

Two years after his death in 1952, a park along the Memphis Riverfront

was named in his honor and a granite obelisk was erected.



The United States Coast Guard will also recognize the courageous acts of Tom Lee.



MEMPHIS, Tenn. – An award ceremony will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 17, 2008

to nationally recognize Mr. Tom Lee posthumously for saving the lives of 32 people on the

Mississippi River.  The Coast Guard will present the Coast Guard Certificate of Valor to

family members of Mr. Tom Lee attending the ceremony.   



Additionally, the RDC has replaced the granite obelisk that had served as a memorial to

Tom Lee since 1952 after its destruction in the severe summer storm of 2003.

The obelisk was relocated on August 14, 2006 to its current home,

which sits opposite the new memorial in Tom Lee Park.



Tom Lee was also the 1st African American Man to be hired by

The City of Memphis Sanitation Department.



Since that time, Tom Lee Park has grown to a 30-acre park and is a popular location for

walkers, joggers, roller bladders and cyclists. It’s also the site of the Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival,

International Barbeque Cooking Contest and other events.





 Thank you!!!





Members Area

Recent Photos