Blair Lee lll, acting governor from 1977 to 1979

Francis Preston Blair Lee lll (pictured in the portrait), a Montgomery County aristocrat who was known as Blair Lee, was born in Silver Spring, and lived most of his life on a nearby farm. He was also born into a political dynasty whose rich lineage dates to early Virginia settlers who arrived in the 1640s, and includes Gen. Robert E. Lee and two signers of the Declaration of Independence. His father, Col. E. Brooke Lee, a seasoned politician, had been Maryland's secretary of state, comptroller and speaker of the House of Delegates. A 1938 graduate of Princeton, he served in the Navy during World War II where he attained the rank of lieutenant commander. After the war, he became the editor of the Maryland News, and in 1954 was elected to the House of Delegates, and in 1966, he was elected senator. He also had been secretary of state and Maryland's first lieutenant governor due to a constitutional change that was approved by voters in 1970. During his time as acting governor, he appointed the first African-American and the first woman to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court. Education was also a cornerstone of his long legislative career and he had served as a member of the University of Maryland's Board of Regents. But his fate was inexplicably tied to Gov. Mandel, and he suffered a stunning political defeat when he lost the 1978 gubernatorial primary to Harry R. Hughes by 20,000 votes, denying him the office that he had so obviously been groomed for. At his death in 1985, Mandel told The Sun: "He was a great person, an excellent statesman, an excellent family man and a good friend. This is a tragic loss for us all." Lee is buried in Washington's Rock Creek Cemetery.
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