NEWBERRY COUNTY — Lewis Lee is no stranger to emergency services in Newberry County. He has worked with the Newberry Fire Department, S.C. Office of State Fire Marshal, worked as the emergency service director and worked in the Coroner’s Office.
Lee, who lives on Bush River Road, is running to be the Newberry County Coroner. He is a Democrat.
Lee started as a firefighter at the Newberry Fire Department, worked his way up the ladder and eventually became chief. As he worked up the ranks to chief, he said he had an opportunity to go to the State Fire Marshal’s Office as a fire marshal.
“I went there until I retired. After that, I came back to Newberry and enjoyed my little farm for a while,” said Lee, 74. “I have 12 acres out on Bush River Road.”
But Lee did not stay retired.
Newberry County had a need for an emergency services director, and he was hired to fill that position. Lee said he was in that position for several years, and then he retired again.
After he retired the Newberry County coroner became ill, and his chief deputy corner also fell ill and passed away.
The county was in need of a coroner and Lee said he was asked to serve as chief deputy coroner. As far as the Department of Health and Environmental Control was concerned, he was the coroner.
Lee was in that position from March until the November election when Craig Newton was elected, and he took over in January. Newton asked Lee to stay on as chief deputy and he accepted.
Lee said one of the most tragic times in people’s lives is when they are notified that someone they love has died.
Lee says he feels like he has been able to make a difference in the lives of these families as they go through that tragic time.
“My job all my life has been helping people in some of the most tragic times in their lives, and my working with all of these emergency services that I have worked with, seeing families go through traumas that they do when the coroner arrives, I felt like I could make a difference,” Lee said. “I tried my best to be there to represent the decedent and work with the family of the decedent.”
Lee was born in Monarch, located in Union County, to Nita and Michael B. Lee. His father was a Methodist minister, which meant they moved every five or six years.
“You do not go anywhere where you do not meet someone that you know, or a family member of someone that you know,” Lee said.
Lee graduated from Gray Court Owings High School, in Laurens County, in 1963. After graduating from high school he went to Spartanburg Methodist College, which was Spartanburg Junior College at the time.
“My dad moved to Newberry while I was in school. He moved over to Epting Memorial Methodist Church, so that is how I wound up in Newberry,” Lee said. “When I came here I was 1-A on the draft, Vietnam War was going on, so I went to work with a contractor and from that I went to work at the Newberry Fire Department.”
During the time he was fire chief, Lee said he was privileged to be allowed to go back to college. He went to school at night and earned his bachelor of science in business administration from Limestone College.
For the last 15 years, Lee has served on the Newberry County Water and Sewer board. He was originally appointed by Edgar Baker, and later re-appointed by Scott Cain.
Lee and his wife, Nancy, have been married for 44 years. Together they have three children — David, Darin and Debra — along with six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
In South Carolina, a coroner must meet certain requirements that include but are not limited to forensic science degree or certification program and experience in death investigation or law enforcement.
Lee said the Coroner’s Office sent him to New York City to take a medical legal certification program through National Institute of Justice.
“I have had that and completed that, that is a qualifier,” he said. “When I was with the fire department, I was a fire death investigator. I have been with the Coroner’s Office investigating deaths of all types, been in the chief deputy position for eight years.
“I think that one of the biggest things that I have to better serve the people of Newberry County is the fact that I have spent my entire adult life working with emergency services, law enforcement, EMS, Fire services in Newberry County,” he added. “I know the county, I know the people and the people know me.”
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.