John Milton Lee

John Milton Lee


Founder John Milton Lee was a scholar, loyal, and tireless worker for the growth of the fraternity. Due to his idealist character was commonly referred to as ‘a dreamer’ during the fraternity’s early years. He was born in Danville, Indiana, on September 7, 1890, and was the third of four children.

He attended Danville public schools and enrolled at Indiana University in 1910. He completed three years of pre-medical work before leaving the university. In 1914, he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania but withdrew for health reasons. In 1915, he became a student at Temple University but was compelled to leave due to a death in the family.


Lee enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1917. He was a non-commissioned officer assigned to Battery F, 349th Field Artillery Regiment, 167th Field Artillery Brigade of the 92nd Division. The Field Artillery component was the first Negro Artillery Regiment in the history of the military. Lee subsequently served overseas as a Sergeant First Class and Gunner. His battery enjoys the unique distinction of being the first Battery of Negro Artillerymen ever to open fire upon an enemy. Lee reportedly fired the first shot. He was an associate editor of Modern Artillerymen, the official record of Battery F.

Lee helped organize and, for several years, was president of the Fairview Golf Club, the first Negro Golf Club in Pennsylvania. For two years, he was the editor of The Golfer, the monthly publication of the Fairview Golf Club. In 1931, he was married to Mary Walker Robinson.

Vocationally, he was engaged in several enterprises. For eight years, Lee conducted a successful catering business in Philadelphia; he organized and served as Vice-President and Secretary of the Mutual Emergency Union, a mutual aid company in Philadelphia. He was also a member of the Board of Managers of the Columbia Community Branch of the YMCA.

Lee contributed significantly to the vision and development of the fraternity in its early years. The articles of incorporation listed Lee as the Secretary of Kappa Alpha Nu. He assisted in the development of the emblems of Kappa Alpha Nu. Lee helped to establish the Epsilon, the Lambda, and the Philadelphia (PA) Alumni Chapters. He served as its interim Polemarch until the chapter elected its first Polemarch.

At the time of his death, January 3, 1958, he was employed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He is the only Founder to be cremated, and his ashes are preserved in an urn at International Headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.