Rex Edwin Lee, immediate past president of Brigham Young University and former Solicitor General of the United States, died Monday, March 11, 1996 in Provo, Utah from the effects of cancer. Up to his final days, he was actively engaged in the causes he loved best: serving his family, his church, and the university, and preparing to give his sixtieth oral argument to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Born on February 27, 1935, Rex Lee grew up in St. Johns, Arizona. He enrolled as a freshman at BYU in 1953. After serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico, he graduated from BYU in 1960, serving in his final year as student body president. In 1959 he married his BYU sweetheart, Janet Griffin, daughter of Ben and Marian Griffin. Rex and Janet are the parents of seven children. In 1963 Rex graduated first in his class from the University of Chicago Law School. He then served as a law clerk to Justice Byron R. White at the United States Supreme Court. From 1964 to 1972, he practiced law with the Phoenix law firm of Jennings, Strouss & Salmon.Rex became the founding dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU in 1972 at the age of 37. He later served two years as Assistant U.S. Attorney General and for four years as U.S. Solicitor General. In this latter role he served as the chief appellate advocate for the federal government during the first four years of the Reagan Administration. In 1985 he joined the national law firm of Sidley & Austin and concurrently occupied the George Sutherland Chair as a Professor of Law at BYU. He was widely regarded as one of the nation's foremost Supreme Court advocates and was a favorite of the students at BYU. At various times, he also served his church as a bishop and stake president and most recently as a Sunday School teacher.
From July 1989 until December 31, 1995, he was the tenth president of Brigham Young University. Rex's national stature and engaging personality blessed the BYU community with warm and responsive leadership. Although he faced increasingly difficult health conditions toward the end of his tenure, his presidency was somehow enhanced by his buoyant courage and vibrant endurance in the face of his challenges.
The life of Rex E. Lee embodies a unique blend of religious faith, intellectual rigor, character, and service to others. As a student, a father and husband, a teacher, a scholar, a skilled professional, a public servant, and a servant of God, his contagious enthusiasm and zest for life touched all those who had the privilege to know him.
He is survived by his wife, Janet; children, Diana (Mrs. Steven Allred), Thomas Rex, Wendy (Mrs. Thomas Jacobsen), Michael Shumway, Stephanie (Mrs. Bret Paulson), Melissa (Mrs. Brett Wimmer), and Christie; ten grandchildren, Ashley, Chelsea, and Alexander Allred; Jordan, Jacob Rex, and Benjamin Lee; Colton and Madeleine Jacobsen; and James Rex and John David Lee; and his mother, Mabel Shumway, and brothers, Douglas, Richard, and Mark Shumway.
Funeral services will be held on Friday, March 15, 1996 in the Provo Tabernacle at 12 noon. Friends may pay their respects at a viewing on Thursday evening, March 14, from 7-9 p.m. or on Friday morning, March 15, from 9:30-11:00 a.m. at the Oak Hills Stake Center, 965 East No. Temple Drive.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the "Rex E. Lee Memorial Fund," Brigham Young University, P.O. BOX 27188, Provo, Utah 84602.
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