Former UA football player turned financial adviser seeks seat on board of education

By Gary Lloyd

The beige walls of Harry Lee’s insurance office are covered with photos and plaques, ranging from Paul “Bear” Bryant illustrations to awards for work done with the Boy Scouts of America and Boys and Girls Clubs of West Alabama.

Lee, 77, has worked as a financial adviser for Equitable Life Insurance Co. for the past 52 years, but he’s done much more over that time than provide investment advice for businesses and individuals.

Two aspects of his life displayed clearly on his office walls – football and education – have seemingly meshed together, and, in turn, led him to run for the Tuscaloosa Board of Education District 5 seat. He wants kids to learn to read and stay motivated to do well as long as they’re in a classroom, high school or college.

“ Somebody helped me,” Lee said of his younger years. “I want to help them. That’s why I’ve done all these things through these organizations.”

Short-lived football career

Lee played high school football at the now-defunct J.H. Phillips High School in Birmingham, starting at offensive guard in 1950, earning All-State honors en route to an undefeated season and state championship.

For his efforts, he was awarded a football scholarship to play at The University of Alabama under Harold “Red” Drew. However, offensive guard wasn’t in his plans. Lee was too quick, too athletic to be forced into the trenches, so he was moved to linebacker, where he could roam the field. He lettered all four years.

After a short stint with the Army at Fort Jackson, S.C., Lee signed a contract to play football professionally in Canada. His career lasted just three league games, as a vicious hit on a punt return left his right shoulder, literally, in pieces.

“There was a big hole in there, and they put a screw in there about that big, and it’s holding all the pieces together,” he said, holding up an ink pen for measure. The injury was career-ending, leaving Lee with the insurance adviser career he still has today.

Longstanding education career

Lee hasn’t taught in a classroom, though he’s thought about it. He said he wants to make a difference, to see the dropout rate decrease in Tuscaloosa. He said kids need to have the want to learn to be successful. He had that motivation when he was young and wants to see kids reach their full potential.

“I’m trying to make a change, if I can, if one person can make a change,” Lee said. “I want to try to make a difference with as many individuals as I can.”