Richard Lee

Richard Lee

29/7/1919 - 9/11/2003

Richard Stanford "Dick" Lee, a longtime obstetrician/gynecologist at the Palo Alto Medical Clinic.

But Dr. Lee's twin passion for most of his life was racing Porsche sports cars. In later years he actively worked to improve racing safety and provided medical services at races in Laguna Seca near Monterey, Sears Point in the North Bay and other race tracks, becoming known as the inventor of the racing safety harness (adapted from his flying experiences during World War II).

Richard Stanford "Dick" Lee came from the Palo Alto region. He moved there with his father and family in 1924 from San Francisco.

Dick Lee was raised in a house built by his father at 440 Gerona Road, Stanford, and survived a bout of polio as a young child that left him with a slight limp made worse later in life from vehicle accidents and a hip replacement. He attended one of the first classes of Peninsula School in Menlo Park.

Dick attended Palo Alto High School, then briefly Pomona College in Southern California, from which he flunked out and moved to Westminster College in Spanish Fork, Utah, his father's native town, where he earned a college letter in swimming. He also attended the University of Michigan for a quarter.

He received his M.D. in 1944 from the Stanford School of Medicine, then in San Francisco. He did his OB/gyn residency at San Francisco General Hospital and Kaiser Permanente.

During World War II, Dick and Peter joined the Army and Philip and Hewlett joined the Navy, all serving as medical officers, Dick at the Hamilton Air Base of the U.S. Army Air Corps before it became the Air Force. He was stationed in the Philippines and in Korea, and ultimately became a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves, he was called up during the Korean War and, briefly, during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963.
Dick Lee's love of speed began as a youth, when he took up racing his Indian motorcycle around a dirt track at the Stanford Stadium -- and once got caught riding it across the Stanford Golf Course. He also was an avid flyer.

After briefly owning a Jaguar racing car, Dick Lee bought his first Porsche in 1957, its engine is still on the workbench of a special garage he built in 1958 when Russel Lee created a family compound off Los Trancos Road.

Dick Lee regularly raced from 1958 to 1973, when he shifted to providing medical services for race drivers. He was named regional director and later national medical director for the Sports Car Club of America.

In 1966, he was severely injured when he was instructing a student race driver at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, and the car went out of control and hit a large concrete barrier. He also had broken a leg in a motorcycle accident at the Lee compound, passing it off for years to family members as a bicycle accident.

He then shifted to providing medical services for race drivers. He was named regional director and later national medical director for the Sports Car Club of America. In 1966, he was severely injured when he was instructing a student race driver at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, and the car went out of control and hit a large concrete barrier. He also had broken a leg in a motorcycle accident at the Lee compound, passing it off for years to family members as a bicycle accident.

With thanks to Jay Thorwaldson, Editor, Palo Alto Weekly

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