American Sociological Association

Alfred McClung Lee

Alfred McClung Lee

Alfred McClung Lee

August 23, 1906 - May 19, 1992

The Brooklyn College Archives and Special Collections provides the following biographical sketch of Alfred McClung Lee:

Alfred McClung Lee was born in Oakmont, Pennsylvania in 1906. He married Elizabeth Riley Briant, a sociologist and writer, in 1927. After attaining a B.A. at the University of Pittsburgh and a Ph.D. at Yale University, Alfred McClung Lee began a long career of university teaching and scholarship.

Lee was a professor at the University of Kansas from 1934-1938, then became a lecturer and professor at New York University from 1938-42. This relationship would continue until 1955, with Lee serving as a visiting professor. The next university at which he taught was Wayne University (1942-1949), where Lee was the Chairman of the Sociology and Anthropology departments (1942-1947). Lee then left Wayne University to become a professor at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York from 1941-1971. He was Chairman of the Sociology and Anthropology department at Brooklyn College from 1951-1957, and in 1971 the college honored this distinguished professor by making him Professor Emeritus. He was also a Visiting Scholar at Drew University until his passing.

Alfred McClung Lee was also a very active member and leader in a large number of sociological, journalistic, and humanitarian organizations both public and private. In his early career, his activities included being a public affairs specialist for the Twentieth Century Fund (1938-1940), executive director of the Sumner Club at Yale University (1939-1943), executive director for the Institute for Propaganda Analysis (1940-1942), research consultant for the FCC (1941) and the Department of Justice (1943-1944), member of the board of directors of the ACLU in New York (1949-1956), president and co-founder of Society for the Study of Social Problems (1953-1954), and the chair of the committee of social science consultants for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (1954-1957).

In his later career, Lee was the Director and Professor for the Center for Sociological Research (a part of UNESCO) in Milan (1957-1958), president of the National Committee on Fraternities in Education (1953-1960), the chair of a committee on public opinion in the Commission to Study Arts in New Jersey (1964-1966) and on the New Jersey State Council on the Arts (1967-69). Most notable is Lee's presidency of the American Sociological Association (1976-1977) and his founding and presidency of the Association for Humanist Sociology (1976-1977). In addition, Lee was very active in local church and community organizations including the Unitarian Universalist Association as well as the fight for academic freedom.

Lee was a prolific writer on subjects pertaining to the fields of sociology and journalism. Some of his books include The Daily Newspaper in America (1937), The Fine Art of Propaganda (1939), Race Riot (1943), Principals of Sociology (1946), Social Problems In America (1955), How To Understand Propaganda (1952), Fraternities Without Brotherhood (1955), Marriage and the Family (1970), and Terrorism in Northern Ireland (1983).

In commenting on his own career in Contemporary Authors, Lee said, "My books have been efforts to work for greater press freedom, for more popular understanding of communication processes, for greater equality of opportunity for all racial and religious groups . . . I have looked upon my writing as a way of helping to make life more livable for people." To the end of his life, Alfred McClung Lee worked for humanistic interests. By becoming a leader of many sociological movements, he tried to democratize these organizations and focus their attention on contemporary problems.

Alfred McClung Lee served as the 67th President of the American Sociological Association. His Presidential Address, "Sociology for Whom?" was delivered on August 30, 1976 at the Association's Annual Meeting in New York, and was later published in the American Sociological Review (ASR December 1976, Vol 41 No 6, pp 925-936).

Upon his death, Lee's wife donated his professional papers to the Brooklyn College Archives in 1994. A finding aid for The Papers of Alfred McClung Lee (Accession Number 94-001) outlines the contents of the collection.