H. Rex Lee was born April 8, 1910, in Rigby, Idaho. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from University of Idaho in 1936. Between 1936 and 1942, Lee worked as an economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. From March 1942 to June 1946, he held several posts with the War Relocation Authority. In 1946 Lee transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior as assistant chief of the Office of Territories and served in that position until 1950. In 1949 he was consultant on loan to the United Nations and spent three months traveling in the Near East, conferring with the Arab and Israeli leaders to assist Arab refugees displaced by the Israeli-Arab war.
From 1950 until 1961, he was associate commissioner and deputy commissioner of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. He was then appointed Governor of American Samoa by the Dept. of Interior and served from May 24, 1961, to July 31, 1967. After his Governorship, Lee was then appointed as assistant administrator of the Agency for International Development in the State Department. In 1968 he became a member of the Federal Communications Commission, serving until December 1973. He also served as the last federally appointed governor of the territory from 1977-78. Governor Lee is credited with establishing a new airport and harbor facilities, a novel TV Education program, new roads, and a luxury hotel to promote American Samoa’s tourist industry. He passed away in La Jolla, California, on July 26, 2001.