Rex E. Lee

Rex E. Lee

Rex E. Lee

Lee graduated first in his class from the University of Chicago Law School in 1963. From law school he went to Washington, DC, to serve as law clerk to Byron White, then Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. From Washington, DC, he returned to his home state of Arizona, where, as a partner in the Phoenix law firm of Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, he established himself as a lawyer of promise. Within four years of graduating from law school (and before he had taken a deposition in any lower court civil proceeding) Rex argued his first case in the United States Supreme Court. In 1972 Lee left his burgeoning legal career to become the founding dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. He served as the first dean of the School, and is considered personally responsible for recruiting many members of the exceptional charter class.

Lee entered public service, first as an Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division in the United States Department of Justice from 1975 to 1976, and then as Solicitor General of the United States from 1981 to 1985. As Solicitor General, Rex had the opportunity to focus on the legal effort he enjoyed most: briefing and arguing cases in the United States Supreme Court. Rex built a unique and enduring reputation as a man committed to principle. At the time of his death, in a hospital bed, he was preparing to argue his 60th case before the Court.

After resigning as Solicitor General, Lee returned to Brigham Young University in 1986. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with cancer. Following a year of medical treatment and therapy, Lee recovered, for a time, and was named president of BYU. He served the university community with distinction from July 1, 1989 through December 31, 1995, leaving the position two and one-half months before he died. An annual race is held in his honor at BYU to raise proceeds for cancer research.[1]

Current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito served as an assistant to Solicitor General Lee from 1981 to 1985, where Alito argued 12 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Rex E. Lee's son, Michael S. Lee, later became a law clerk to Justice Alito.

Rex E. Lee was a first cousin of Mo Udall and Stewart Udall.