Published May 25, 2018
ATLANTA—Deacon Hilliard M. “Buddy” Lee Jr., 75, a longtime parishioner at St. Paul of the Cross Church, Atlanta, died May 8.
Born May 14, 1942, in Atlanta to the late Mr. Hilliard M. Lee Sr. and Mrs. Ollie D. Lee, he was the first of four children.
He was educated at Our Lady of Lourdes School, Atlanta, and completed his secondary education at Booker T. Washington High School in 1960. Deacon Lee went on to post-secondary education at Morehouse College and Georgia State University. He earned a juris doctorate from John Marshall Law School in 1981 and took additional professional courses at Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia.
In December 1967, he was drafted to serve the country in the Vietnam War. Inducted in January 1968 and selected into the United States Army, he was a member of the 4th Battalion of the 18th Infantry stationed in Berlin, Germany. During his two-year stint in the Army, he achieved the rank of Specialist 5th Class. Before departing for Germany, he married Vivian Few on May 16, 1968.
Upon returning to civilian life, Lee worked for the City of Atlanta as a planning technician and urban planner. He then took on a role as a policy planner for the Georgia Department of Transportation before going back to work for the City of Atlanta as the deputy chief administrative officer for the mayor’s office.
In 1983, as the director of the Bureau of Parks, Lee was responsible for the overall operation of Atlanta’s city parks. He felt it was important to enhance not only the experience for park visitors but also the development of the city employees who worked for him. He implemented literacy and managerial skills classes for park employees. He worked as chair of the board of directors for the city employees’ credit union. Deacon Lee finished his career working for the city as clerk of court before retiring with more than 26 years of service. He served under the mayoral administrations of Ivan Allen Jr., Sam Massell, Maynard H. Jackson and Andrew Young.
Although Deacon Lee had an illustrious professional career, his true passion was family and church. His happiest times were spent with family.
Deacon Lee was a staple at St. Paul of the Cross Church, Atlanta, back to its beginnings. He was one of the first altar boys and maintained a loyalty for his home church throughout the years. On June 8, 1991, he was ordained a deacon by the late Archbishop James P. Lyke, OFM. Whether serving at Mass, as immediate past president of the St. Paul of the Cross Jolly Bunch; 3rd Degree member of the Knights of Peter Claver Council 301, 4th Degree member of Knights of Peter Claver, Archbishop Lyke Council 43; as an active member of the Black Catholic Clergy of Atlanta, or a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and in many other roles, the deacon’s agenda was always the same—how can we help each other?
Deacon Lee also served as chaplain for the Atlanta Police Department.
Following the Sept. 11, 2016, Blue Mass for those who serve as first responders, Deacon Lee spoke with The Georgia Bulletin about his service to Catholics and non-Catholics in his chaplaincy of more than two decades.
“When the phone rings, there’s no name beside it. There’s a call to service,” he said.
He suggested all pray for officers daily and learn more about what they do.
Deacon Lee emphasized that the first responders who choose that line of work have unique abilities.
“It’s life or death. It’s not in everybody,” he said about the calling. “I do what I can to support them.”
Deacon Hilliard Lee was preceded in death by his brother, Charlie M. Lee (Mary), and his sister, Mrs. Clifford L. Gartrell (Mason). He is survived by his wife, Vivian; daughters, Erika B. Lee and Abra H. Lee; son, Christopher T. Lee; sister Mrs. Ollie L. Lumpkin (Houston); sisters-in-law, Mary M. Lee and Charlene Harris; brother-in-law Vandarrell Harris; nieces, Monique M. Gartrell, Monique L. Lee, Jasmine S. Lee, Niaya L. Lee; nephews Houston L. Lumpkin IV, Charlie M. “Duke” Lee, Brian Harris and a host of other relatives and friends.