President George Patrick Lee was having dinner in the Arizona Holbrook Mission home the Tuesday before October conference began, when the phone rang. It was Brother Arthur Haycock, secretary to President Kimball. “Stay by the phone,” said Brother Haycock. “President Kimball will be phoning you in 15 minutes.”
“I knew then that something was up,” says Elder Lee. “The prophet doesn’t phone just to say hello. I was very curious and anxious and just couldn’t sit still. Then when he phoned and told me about my calling—well, what can you say?”
President Kimball asked Elder Lee to be in his office the following afternoon for an interview. He was sustained that Friday in the afternoon session of General Conference to be a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. On Saturday he said, “I’m still numb from it and still in the air.”
Elder Lee is a full-blood Navajo Indian from Towaoc, Colorado, and Shiprock, New Mexico. He was born March 23, 1943, to Pete and Mae K. Redwoman Lee. In the 1950s he was one of the first participants in the Church Indian Placement Program and later went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, a master’s from Utah State University, and a doctorate from BYU. He married Katherine Hettick, a Comanche Indian, and they have two sons and a daughter.
Honors received by Elder Lee have included BYU’s Indian Education Award, the Spencer W. Kimball Indian Leadership Award, Outstanding Young Man of America Award, U.S. Office of Education Fellowship, Ford Foundation Fellowship for Ph.D. Program, Phi Delta Kappa membership, and several others. President Lee declined appointment as a White House Fellow to accept a position at the College of Ganado. Later for about two years, he was president of that college, which is a two-year community college on the Navajo Reservation. He was the first Indian to hold that position.
Previous to being called as mission president, Elder Lee served as a counselor to the Arizona Holbrook Mission president. He has also served in that mission as a district president, branch president, elders quorum president, Sunday School superintendent, Young Men’s president, and Scoutmaster. He served as a missionary in that area from 1963 to 1965, when it was known as the Southwest Indian Mission.
President Kimball has informed President Lee that he will continue to serve as president of the Arizona Holbrook Mission, to which he was called just this year. The mission includes the Navajo Reservation. He is the first Lamanite and first American Indian to become a General Authority.
“As I was called, my mind reeled back through the promises of God by prophets in the Book of Mormon to my people if they will repent and receive the gospel. It’s a great feeling and experience to be found worthy and qualified to be a true servant of the Lord.”