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William S. Lee III speech

 Collection — Box: SFC3 [F09.090.03.01], Folder: 380
Identifier: MS0380

Scope and Contents

On October 8, 1979, William S. Lee, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Duke Power Company, delivered an address to the Joint Power Generation Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. His speech, entitled "Energy Perceptions and Promises," concerned America's growing need for energy and the importance of nuclear energy in fulfilling that need.


  • Creation: 1979


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1929, William States Lee III was the grandson of William States Lee Sr., who helped found Duke Power Company and was its first chief engineer. The younger Bill Lee followed in his grandfather's engineering footsteps. Bill Lee III attended Princeton University, where he studied civil engineering and competed as a member of the rowing team. He graduated from Princeton with Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude honors. After serving in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineering Corps, Lee married Janet Runerger of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The couple returned to Charlotte in 1955, where Lee joined Duke Power's engineering department as a junior designer. An investor-owned electric power company, Duke Power was experiencing tremendous growth as it worked to keep pace with the fast-growing Carolinas. The company's policy was to design, engineer and construct its own hydro-electric and coal-fired power plants. His work in the design of Marshall Steam Station was a key component in building a plant that consistently ranked as one of the most efficient plants in the country for more than 20 years. In 1965, Lee became the vice president of engineering. In 1968, he was named to the Duke Power Board of Directors, and became the senior vice president of engineering and construction. It was during the late 60s and early 70s that Lee helped lead Duke Power's design, engineering and construction of nuclear power plants. Duke was one of the first utilities in the nation to build base-load nuclear generating units. The construction costs of three nuclear units at Oconee Nuclear Station, two units at McGuire Nuclear Station and two units at Catawba Nuclear Station were some of the lowest in the world, while the efficiency of the units was some of the best. In 1976, Lee became executive vice president of Duke Power. He was named president and chief operating officer in 1978, and chairman and chief executive officer in 1982. His position and title changed to chairman and president in 1989. With seven nuclear units, Lee realized that the foremost consideration in this commitment was safety. Lee led a national movement to bring together all nuclear operators in a cooperative organization that would share best practices and establish worldwide safety standards. In 1979, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations was formed and Lee served as its chairman from 1979 to 1982. When the Three Mile Island Nuclear accident occurred in 1979, Lee led the recovery efforts, shutting down and stabilizing the reactor. He also worked to ease public concerns and make sure that a similar accident would not occur again. Lee was the catalyst in expanding the new organization to a worldwide level. The World Association of Nuclear Operators was founded in 1989, and Lee served as its president until 1991. In his community service, Lee supported the Boy Scouts, performing arts and environmental stewardship. Lee established the Power in Education Program at Duke Power, which gave Duke employees paid time to volunteer in community schools. For his efforts, Lee was honored by U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Lee was committed to establishing and expanding excellence at UNC Charlotte's College of Engineering. He led efforts to develop strategic plans, create a vision and mission, and establish measures of success. His commitment led to the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees naming of the College The William States Lee College of Engineering in 1994. Lee retired from Duke Power in 1994. He continued, however, to work diligently for the people of the Carolinas. On the day before his death in 1996, Lee addressed the North Carolina State Legislature as the chairman of Gov. Hunt's N.C. Economic Development Committee. His parting words to the hall of legislators were that the most important thing they could do to further the economy of the state, was to support education. He called for a strong commitment to education on all levels, with particular emphasis on research and higher education.


0.01 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Keynote address of William S. Lee (President and Chief Operating Officer of the Duke Power Company) at the 1979 Joint Power Generation Conference, in Charlotte, N.C., on October 8, 1979.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This speech was found in a book in the general collections of Atkins Library, and brought to the Special Collections for manuscript processing and cataloging.

Physical Description

.01 linear feet, 1 archival box

Processing Information

Processed by Robert A. McInnes, May 2007.


William S. Lee III speech
Robert A. McInnes
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte NC 28223 United States

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