C. Tennant Lee

By Arthur E. Welch, Photography by Unknown

From the January 1946 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine

The death of Tennant Lee on Thanksgiving Day, this year, marked the passing of one of the few remaining elders of the American motorcycling scene. Tennant goes to join a gallant group who were the pioneers in our industry and he will hold high rank among them as one of the finest gentlemen and most valiant characters that ever graced our business. I’m sure that George Hendee, Walter and Bill Davidson, Frank Weschler, Bill Harley, Tom Henderson, “Chief” Hubbard and scores of others who built up motorcycling to its highest point in the days from 1902 until 1925 will hold high reunion with Tennant in whatever good place it is that good motorcyclists meet after death.

C. Tennant Lee was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1876 and died in San Diego on November 25, 1945. He was a graduate of Boston Roxbury Latin School and was the author of numerous books dealing with chemical research. He traveled extensively in Latin American countries and established paper mills in Wisconsin, New Orleans, Cuba and along the Amazon River. He became an early business associate of the late Charles A. Hubbard, onetime general manager of the Cuba branch of the United Fruit Company, and, with Mr. Hubbard, came to Los Angeles in 1915.

After a short period of inactivity, Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Lee felt the urge to be doing something and took on distribution of the Henderson Four, which had just made its bow to the American market. Under the Hubbard-Lee regime, the Henderson became one of the popular models in the United States and during the period of Transcontinental and Three Flag speed trials, the Henderson, together with the Excelsior which later was handled in California by Messrs. Lee and Hubbard, consistently broke all existing long-distance record.

In the late 20’s Mr. Lee and Mr. Hubbard again retired, this time for good and moved to San Diego in 1933, where they lived until the time of their deaths.

These briefly are the bare facts regarding Tennant, but to anyone who knew him well they tell the merest fragment of his abilities and character, his integrity and generosity. He and his fine wife, Nancy, were almost literally the parents of Roy Artley, and in lesser degree of Wells Bennett, Art Fournier, Otis Hackett and many another aspiring young rider who made motorcycling history on road and track and speedway in the golden days of motorcyclingin the vivid 1920’s.

The Lee home was always open to these boys. The Lee purse was at their command for every deserving purpose. The Lee encouragement and cooperation and advice was given without stint to the young crop of riders who then needed it badly. They were real people who shed luster on motorcycling and our motorcycling world is the poorer for their passing from its activities.

Our heart-felt sympathy to Nancy Lee, a fine and gentle lady, who is so grievously bereaved.

By Arthur E. Welch
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