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Wilbur R. Lea, after 40 years with the Coast Survey, will retire on November 30. He has served as Messenger to the Director’s Office under Col. E. Lester Jones, who was then designated as Superintendent of the Bureau, and Admirals Raymond S. Patton, Leo Otis Colbert, R.F.A. Studds, and H. Arnold Karo.

Lea was born in 1892 in North Carolina, where he attended school, and came to the Bureau in 1917. With the exception of military service with the AEF in France in World War I, his service has been continuous. In 1943, he was promoted to the position of Head Messenger in the Office of Administrative Services and was later designated as Supervisory Messenger.

Lea had consistently performed his duties in an outstanding manner and his service has been characterized by dependability, high quality and productivity of work. The Director of the Bureau, Admiral Studds, commended him in 1954 for his fine sick leave record as well as his loyalty and faithfulness to duty. At that time, he had accumulated over 1,000 hours of sick leave.

Throughout the years, Lea has found time to study law, receiving his LL.B. degree from Robert H. Terrell Law School. A member of the American Legion, he served as Post Adjutant, Post Commander, and Department Vice-Commander. As Veterans Preference Officer with the Legion, he has represented scores of veterans before the U.S. Civil Service Commission and Federal agencies involving retention, reinstatement, and other phases arising under the G.I. Bill. Most of the cases were successfully adjudicated in favor of the veteran or his family. He will be missed by his many friends in the Bureau who will remember him for his friendliness and cooperativeness.

{Editor’s Note: Wilbur Lea was an African-American, who, by this short account, was an outstanding man who overcame many of the prejudices of American society of the first half of the Twentieth Century. It is apparent from the above that he used his knowledge and abilities to help his fellow man, in particular veterans returning home who encountered difficulties. He was personally brought into the American Legion by Superintendent of the Coast and Geodetic Survey Colonel Ernest Lester Jones, a founder of the American Legion and first commander of Washington, D.C., George Washington Post No. 1.]

In: “Personnel Panorama,” p. 4. October-November 1957.

Wilbur R. Lea Cited for Outstanding Service in the American Legion

At the recent 37th annual Department Convention of the American Legion at the Shoreham Hotel, Wilbur R. Lea was awarded several Citations for Outstanding Services to the Community. A plaque was awarded Lea by Byron E. Dunn, D.C. Department Commander, American Legion, and a Distinguished Service Certificate was given by the District Department. Also a Diamond Studded Jewel Pin was given Wilbur Lea on the occasion of his retirement as D.C. Department Vice Commander for the outgoing year 1954-55.

Colonel E. Lester Jones, former Director of the Coast and Geodetic Survey and the founder of the American Legion and the first Department Commander of D.C. highly recommended Mr. Lea’s membership in the American Legion. Col. Jones was the first Department Commander in the American Legion.

In: “The Buzzard,” August 11, 1955. P. 6.

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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