Keith Ellis Lee was a prominent member of the dominant Jackson State University men's track and field team. From 1973 to 1978, Lee and his teammates all but ruled the track and field landscape in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Next month, Lee, who later became a celebrated Air Force veteran, will be among 13 people inducted in the JSU Hall of Fame.
From the moment he stepped onto the JSU campus, Lee a fierce competitor and a winner. As a freshman, he advanced to the NAIA finals in the 880-yard dash, where he lowered his personal best time to 1:50.8. As a sophomore, he started running cross country, which helped him in track and field as he again lowered his 880 time (1:50.2).
During his junior year, Lee was absolutely on fire. He went undefeated during the cross-country regular season, before winning the conference meet. When the indoor track season came around, he posted a time of 2:07.7 in the 1,000 yards – only 2 seconds off the then indoor record. Once again, he lowered his 880 time in outdoor track and field (1:49.4). He also set a Jackson State and SWAC record as he ran a 6.5-mile course in 33:33.
The next year, Lee again went undefeated during the cross-country regular season. The 1978 season – his senior campaign – was the year of the "Big Seven" for JSU track and field. The Tigers won seven major meets, including indoor and outdoor nationals. Lee recorded another personal best in the 800 meters, posting a 1:47.2. He also recorded a time of1:46.8 in a leg of one of the team's sprint medley relays. A fall in the preliminary rounds of the nationals prevented him from qualifying for the finals.
All-SWAC and All-American, Lee ran for the Flying Tiger Track Club for a year after leaving Jackson State. He participated in track and road races, going undefeated in road races at distances from five kilometers to 10 miles.
In 1979, Lee joined the Air Force and continued to race. He eventually joined the Air Force track team and participated in Armed Services track meets in Colorado and Brazil. In 1980, he won the Air Force Long Distance Championships in both the three- and six-mile events. In these races, he ran three miles in14:06.
One of Lee's few defeats in his track and field career came in 1980. He lost the Santa Rosa Mall five-mile race when he fell at the start and tore a calf muscle, the first major injury of his career.
Lee served in the Air Force for 21 years. While serving as the director of Logistics for the 100th Regional Support Group in the United Kingdom, he helped to found the American Air Museum in the UK. The museum is a living memorial that honors men and women of the American Air Forces who gave so unselfishly of themselves in the cause of freedom.
In 2000, Lee left the Air Force as a major and received an honorable retirement for creditable service. His military awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, the 2nd award, Air Force Commendation Medal, 4th award, the Army Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, 2nd award, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal.
The 2013 JSU Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony is Oct.4.
(For more information contact Eric Stringfellow at 601-979-2272.)