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C.C. Lee Bio

Clifford Carl Lee died in 1979 at the age of 89, leaving a legacy in Aberdeen that will benefit citizens there for generations to come.

The game of tennis first grabbed the attention of this prairie industrialist in his early 20ís. With the help of a few friends, he personally built the first clay tennis court in Aberdeen, and in 1912 he won the city singles and doubles championship.

Leeís lifelong business, the K.O. Lee Company, evolved from its start as a general store by his father, K.O. Lee, in 1889. It became a farm machinery sales company, then an engine repair shop that manufactured grinding machines related to engine valves and metal cutting tool sharpening. The demands of World War II put the company on the map as a manufacturer of quality machine tool products in need by the U.S. Government in the war effort.

Lee and wife Agnes turned many company profits into gifts that benefit still today youth programs and adult recreation in Aberdeen. Whether it was land for city park or school land use, he gave generously. In the 60ís and 70ís, local civil engineer Don A. Boyd said Lee was responsible for the construction of 26 tennis courts in Aberdeen.

During those years, Leeís generosity spurred local tennis enthusiast Doug Smith and others to involve many of Aberdeenís top young athletes in tennis. As a tribute to Lee, the first C.C. Lee Tennis Tournament was sanctioned in 1965 by the Northwestern Tennis Association. The city of Aberdeen continues to receive tennis program support through the C.C. Lee Memorial Fund, organized and funded by his children, Karl Lee, Solveig Nelson and Krestie Utech.

Lee was honored by national, state and local officials in various ways. In 1979, the National Recreation and Parks Association Citation Award went to Lee, for lifetime gifts estimated at more than $1 million.