He graduated from Hillhouse High School in 1934.
Lee is best known for his leading role in urban redevelopment in the 1950s and "60s. His father, Frederick, worked at the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Lee appointed the city"s first black corporation counsel, George Williamson Crawford, in 1954.
During his first re-election campaign in 1957, John F. Kennedy, then in the Senate, traveled to New Haven to campaign for him.
To shore up New Haven"s large Italian electorate, the mayor brought in Rocky Marciano, the boxer. Lee went on to serve 16 years as mayor, second-longest of New Haven"s mayors at the time.
In 2003 he died at the age of 86. On May 17, 1999, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (Doctorate-Connecticut) dedicated the Richard C. Lee United States Courthouse in downtown New Haven to Lee.
DeLauro worked with Senators Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman to rename the federal building, which stands at 141 Church Street.
The Richard C. Lee Highway, a freeway in downtown New Haven, is also named in his honor. A former New Haven public high school, carried the name Richard C. Lee High School in his honor. lieutenant has been replaced by Career Magnet High School.
The Richard C Lee High School building is now the Yale School Of Nursing.