Henry Lee, La. sheriff, dies

Oct. 1, 2007 at 10:23 PM
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GRETNA, La., Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Henry Lee, the longtime sheriff of Jefferson Parish outside New Orleans, died Monday of leukemia.

Lee, 75, was preparing to run for an eighth term, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported. His aggressive crime-fighting and occasional use of racially charged rhetoric gained him a national reputation.

He had an unusual background for a southern sheriff. Lee was the son of immigrants from China and earned a degree in geology before going to law school.

Lee entered public life as a protege of Congressman Hale Boggs and his widow and successor, Lindy Boggs. He first ran for sheriff as a reformer in 1979.

But Lee realized Jefferson residents were fearful of crime spilling out from New Orleans. At one point, he put up a barrier in the middle of a street that served as the boundary between the two, and in 1986 ordered deputies to pull over black men in “rinky-dink” cars. That caused a firestorm that almost pushed him into resignation.

But he also was much admired.

"For me, I've lost a hero, I've lost my best friend and I've lost a father figure," Chief Deputy Newell Normand said during a news conference.

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