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Office of the President correspondence with the General Counsel, 1925-1993

Identifier: UA 925 Series 1 Sub-Series 4 Sub-Series 2

Scope and Contents

Contains correspondence on legal issues related to the university. Materials date from between 1925 and 1993.


  • 1925-1993


Conditions Governing Access

Restricted. Closed for 70 years from the end date of the administration, and thereafter open to the public in accordance with the University Archives Policy.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to use material from this collection must be obtained from Reference Services at

Administrative History

From the Collection:

The Brigham Young University President (est. 1903) is the chief executive officer and general manager of the University.

Brigham Young University has had a president since Brigham Young Academy was changed to Brigham Young University in 1903. While the school was still called Brigham Young Academy the head officer was titled principal.

The Board of Trustees delegates to the University President the responsibility to conduct the operations of the institution and administer the policies enacted by the board. Since 1996, the President of the university has also been a General Authority of the Church.

Past and present Brigham Young University presidents include George H. Brimhall (1903-1921), Franklin S. Harris (1921-1945), Howard S. McDonald (1945-1949), (acting president) Christian Jensen (1949-1951), Ernest L. Wilkinson (1951-1971), Dallin H. Oaks (1971-1980), Jeffrey R. Holland (1980-1989), Rex E. Lee (1989-1995), Merrill J. Bateman (1996-2003), and Cecil O. Samuelson (2003- ).

Biographical History

From the Collection:

Rex E. Lee grew up in St. Johns, Arizona, and served in the Mexican Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After graduating from Brigham Young University and the University of Chicago Law School, he served as a successful lawyer, as founding dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, as both United States assistant attorney general and solicitor general, as a Supreme Court lawyer, and as president of Brigham Young University. He passed away in March of 1996.

Rex Edwin Lee was born February 27, 1935 in St. Johns, Arizona. He showed considerable potential in school and his teachers pushed him to excel. He spent summers working in the sawmill business that his family owned—the sawmills were located in Arizona and New Mexico. By his sophomore year in high school, Rex had set his sights on becoming a lawyer. When the time came to choose a college, his teachers counseled him to attend the University of Arizona and his family counseled him to attend Brigham Young University. A deal was struck that he would attend Brigham Young University for one year and if he didn’t like it he could then transfer to the University of Arizona.

In the fall of 1953, Rex and three friends loaded their possessions into a 1943 Chevrolet and made the 600-mile trip to Provo, Utah. They arrived in Provo late in the evening to discover that the supply office for their dormitory was closed and so, while they were able to get into their rooms, they had no mattresses, no sheets, no blankets or pillows, and no electricity. Rex felt very alone and was ready to return to Arizona. He instinctively knelt in prayer and the stifling discouragement soon gave way to a healthy anxiety. After one quarter, Rex had decided that BYU was where he wanted to complete his undergraduate education. After completing his first two years of college, Rex accepted a call to serve as a missionary in the Mexican Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After his mission, Rex returned to BYU in 1958 to finish his undergraduate education. Soon after his return to campus he bumped into Janet Griffin and began to court her. They were married in the Mesa Arizona Temple on July 7, 1959. Rex served as student body president of BYU from 1959-60 and upon graduation was accepted to study law at the University of Chicago. Rex graduated first in his law school class in 1963 and accepted a one-year appointment as a law clerk for Justice Bryon R. White of the United States Supreme Court.

When Rex’s appointment with Supreme Court ended in 1964, he moved his family to Arizona, where he had been hired by the Phoenix law firm of Jennings, Strouss, Salmon & Trask. Rex was made a partner in this law firm three years later. In 1971 the Lees learned that BYU’s board of trustees had announced that the university was going to establish a law school. Rex was soon visited by Ernest L. Wilkinson who invited him to come to Salt Lake City to meet with the committee charged with finding a dean for the new school. Several months later, Rex received a phone call from Harold B. Lee inviting him to become the law school’s founding dean. Rex served as dean until 1976 when Edward H. Levi (then the U. S. attorney general) invited him to serve as assistant attorney general over the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice. Rex accepted the invitation and served until January 1977. He then resumed his duties as dean of the law school. In 1981 Rex was nominated for Solicitor General of the United States and his nomination was approved in July by the full Senate. He served from 1981 until 1985 when he resigned.

Following his resignation he accepted a position with the Washington, D. C. law firm Sidley & Austin with a focus on appellate cases. This decision seemed to mean giving up his association with BYU’s law faculty. He approached the BYU administration to tender his resignation and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the university had no problem with him splitting his time between the law school and the firm as long as the Lees lived in Provo—a solution that proved acceptable to everyone. This arrangement continued until 1989 when Rex was called to serve as President of Brigham Young University at which time he continued as a member of the law firm Sidley & Austin. Rex served as university president until 1995 when he resigned due to failing health.

Rex and Janet G. Lee raised a family of seven children—Diana, Tom, Wendy, Michael, Stephanie, Melissa, and Christie—while Rex pursued his career. The importance of his family was brought home to Rex in 1987 when he learned that he had cancer. Aggressive treatment caused the cancer to go into remission. The cancer reappeared during his tenure at Brigham Young University and eventually claimed his life on March 11, 1996.


4 folders

Language of Materials