Chapel Hill renames transit headquarters after town's first Black mayor and his wife

Tamara Scott Image
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Town of Chapel Hill honors first Black mayor for Juneteenth
Leaders honored Howard Lee who was Chapel Hill's first African-American mayor elected back in 1969.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Many local municipalities recognized Juneteenth this year, including the town of Chapel Hill.

Leaders honored the town's first Black mayor by renaming the transit facility after him.

Howard Lee became Chapel Hill's first African-American mayor in 1969.

He would go on to hold office for two terms and helped to start Chapel Hill Transit in 1974 and police department crisis teams.

His wife Lillian is another trailblazer in the community.

She was one of the first teachers at UNC Hospital School and served on a number of boards and committees in town.

The transit program went from just a few buses maintained on a dirt plot to one of the fastest growing electric bus fleets.

Howard said he is grateful to see where his dream has led.

"It didn't disappear. It didn't dry up like a raisin in the sun because the strong leadership and the commitment and because of the strong mayors and drivers who stuck with the system. It has bloomed and become a great reality," he said.

Howard added there were a lot of people that helped make this happen back in 1974 and he's just so grateful to be honored.