Lee Harris Potter died on Friday, January 17 2014, in Durham. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1924 to Paul Merrick Potter and Lula White Potter, and lived in Atlanta until he left for Davidson College. His studies were interrupted when he enlisted in the army after Pearl Harbor. On Christmas Eve, 1944, he survived the torpedoing of the troopship SS Leopoldville, which sank with great loss of life. It was characteristic of his attitude toward life and people that he always looked back on his time in the army as an experience of personal growth and learning.
Upon returning to the U.S. he enrolled first at the Yale School of Music, then went to Chapel Hill for his A.B., M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature. While in Chapel Hill he met and married the love of his life, Edith Turpin. They lived for the first six years of their marriage in a cottage in the back yard of Dr. Will Coker in Chapel Hill. Those were wonderfully happy years and they made lasting friends before moving to Greencastle, Indiana, where Lee taught at Depauw University.
In 1958 they moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, where Lee taught at the University of Virginia. In 1960 Lee was asked to be the first dean of the newly instituted George Mason College of the University of Virginia, later George Mason University, and the family moved to Oakton, Virginia. In 1965 Lee came to Wake Forest University, where he spent many fulfilling years teaching in the collegial and stimulating atmosphere of the English department.
Some of the highlights for him were five semesters leading the Wake Forest study programs in Venice and London, and his directing the Wake Forest Institute of Literature. He published poetry and short fiction along with his professional writing. One of his colleagues called him “the most loved man in the department,” and he was a mentor and friend to many. Lee’s students formed lifelong relationships with him and he followed their careers with pride and affection.
Lee and Edith’s cabin on Stoots Mountain, in southwest Virginia, became an important part of their lives. Lee balanced contemplation and do-it-yourself projects amid the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lee had the gift of making friends wherever he went. He was a great listener and was genuinely interested in every new acquaintance. His never-failing courtesy and kindness were part of his nature because his instinct was always to make others comfortable. It would be hard to say what he enjoyed most – staking tomatoes, reading poetry, or playing the piano, but certainly his greatest joys were being with his family and his dogs.
Lee is survived by his wife, Edith Turpin Potter;four daughters, Page Potter, Edith Potter Keene and husband Paul Keene, Lee Potter Rogers and husband Gary Rogers, Jane Potter Quigley and husband Bernie Quigley, as well as six grandchildren, Betsy Keene, Grace Rogers, Ben Quigley, Tom Quigley, Peter Quigley and Catherine Quigley;nieces and nephew Adriana Turpin Morison, Kate Turpin Citkovic, and William Turpin. The extended family includes Janne Williams and Bob Warren.
The family wishes to thank Mary Buchanan and the staff of Croasdaile Village retirement community, who provided loving care to Lee in the last four years of his life. A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, January 28 at 2:00 p.m. in Few Chapel of the Croasdaile Village community in Durham.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Wake Forest University scholarship fund for students studying abroad. Condolences may be extended at CremationSocietyNC. com