The General William C. Lee House in Dunn, North Carolina, is named for the
internationally-known aviator who lived there for 13 years. The home was
constructed, however, about 1915 by Jefferson Davis Barnes, a prominent
Dunn businessman and one of the early residents of the Harnett County town.
William C. Lee (1895-1948) was born in Dunn and was the fifth of Eldridge
and Emma Jane Lee's seven children. William attended both Wake Forest and
North Carolina State colleges and graduated from the latter in 1917. With
training in the R.O.T.C. program at N.C. State, Lee decided upon a career
in military service. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, Lee began his
active military career at age 22. Following his attendance at Infantry School,
Lee entered World War I with the American Expeditionary Army in France where
he served as platoon leader and company commander. After the war he continued
his military training in the tank warfare schools at Fort Meade, Maryland,
and Versailles, France. In the 1930s, Lee attended Command and general Staff
School and was promoted to major. On one of two extended European tours,
he observed the German parachute and glider operations which he believed
would be an invaluable asset to the U.S. Army's military development. Returning
home he was ordered to the Office of the Chief of Infantry in Washington,
D.C., which gave him the opportunity to promote his ideas.
General William C. Lee House
Photograph courtesy of General
William C. Lee Museum
Major Lee encountered stiff opposition from the military high command until
President Franklin D. Roosevelt took special interest in the concept of
an airborne unit and ordered the creation of such a division. A parachute
school was established at Fort Benning, Georgia, with Lee as commander.
Under his guidance, improvements were made to the German system and when
World War II broke out, the airborne unit stood ready to play a vital role
in the ultimate victory. By the time the United States entered the war,
Lee had been promoted to general and placed in command of the 101st Division.
From his division headquarters in Reading, England, General Lee directed
America's airborne troops. As a military strategist and advisor to General
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lee wrote the airborne doctrine and devised the tactical
plans employed in the D-Day invasion of the European Continent. Unfortunately,
Lee suffered a heart ailment that forced him to return to the United States
before the invasion began. He watched the successful implementation of his
plans from his home in Dunn.
Statue of General William C. Lee
Photograph courtesy of
Dunn Area Tourism Authority
General Lee was in active military service when his wife, Dava Johnson
Lee, whom he married in 1918, bought this house on West Divine Street
in 1935. Upon returning here Lee, although officially retired, continued
in the role of advisor and consultant. Numerous prominent figures visited
his Dunn home, including General F.A.M. Browning, chief of Great Britain's
airborne forces and later treasurer to Prince Phillip with offices in
Buckingham Palace, who spent several weekends with Lee during his American
tour. General Lee died on June 25, 1948. Two days later, the grandest
funeral ever held in Dunn honored "the father of America's airborne troops."
Surrounded by state and U.S. Army dignitaries and thousands paying homage,
Lee was laid to rest in Greenwood Cemetery.
The Lee House is an imposing example of early 20th-century Neo-Classical
Revival residential architecture. Built in 1915, the 4,5000-square foot
home has a rough textured, variegated brick veneer and consists of a two-story,
double pile main section with one-story rear wings. Monumental Tuscan columns
support the deep but simple entablature of the full-fašade hipped roof porch.
General William C. Lee House
Photograph from National
Register of Historic Places Collection
The Gen. William C. Lee House is located at 209 West Divine St. in
Dunn, North Carolina. Now a museum, it is open Monday-Friday 10:00am to
4:00pm, and on Saturday from 11:00am to 4:00pm. There is a small charge
for admission. Call 910-892-1947 for further information.