|Lee Fletcher: A friend|
While he was often accused of it, Lee Fletcher was no relation to me, but he was one of my dearest friends.
Politics does not lend itself to many enduring friendships, but Lee was different. His tenacity, courage and true grit endeared him to me. I saw in him what I saw in myself, and, as he often reminded me, he likewise saw in me what he saw in himself. We shared a common struggle of difficult childhoods, a focused commitment to overcoming our faults, and a desire to force the "establishment" to recognize our talents and ideas. Often, it is a lonely battle but, then, you meet someone who shares it with you. Lee Fletcher was that someone for me. I will never forget him, and Louisiana should never forget his story.
There is no need to provide the details of Lee's early years but, suffice it to say, it was difficult. Because of wonderful grandparents, Lee was able to secure a modicum of stability in his life (his "granny" was by him every step and minute of the way in his illness, a great woman who has a special place waiting for her in Heaven). Yet, to his credit, Lee never forgot where he came from. He understood the difficulties of life and was constantly on the search for someone to help.
His childhood made Lee tough. Early on he understood that courage was the only way he was going to make something of himself. Lee was the personification of personal responsibility. He studied hard, worked hard, put himself in the right position with the right tools and Lee achieved. From attending and graduating from Louisiana Tech on scholarship to becoming the Chief of Staff for Congressman John Cooksey to running for Congress to building a successful business and to serving as Chief of Staff for Congressman John Fleming, Lee's career was built on talent, gall, tenacity and courage. He never gave up. Yes, he got down, but he never stayed down. He never gave up.
Lee and I became close friends while we were running Congressman John Cooksey's campaign. Later, while he was attending LSU to earn his executive MBA, Lee often stayed at our house on the weekends when in Baton Rouge. He got to know my children and my wife. My children thought Lee was funny. My wife saw Lee as a fighter trying to better himself. We all loved him as a friend. During those weekends, Lee and I talked about our lives and realized our proximity. While we later became competitors, there was never competition between us. I wanted Lee to win. He wanted me to win. I was his biggest fan and he was my biggest fan.
When Lee ran for Congress, our friendship grew. As if to complete the circle, I used my son, Daniel, to play a young Lee in a television spot. Lee was heartbroken when he lost by a few hundred votes just as I was. He would have been a great Member of Congress. Young, brash, ideologically conservative, and articulate, Lee would have been the future of Louisiana politics, but it was not to be.
The defeat could have destroyed a young man in his mid thirties, but it did not destroy Lee. It took a little while for him to get his feet under him but Lee came back, started a business, and started winning campaigns and building a solid commercial business. He had recently won the congressional race in the 4th District of Louisiana, his financial situation had improved greatly, had just purchased a beautiful, championship cutting horse, and became the owner of a radio station in Monroe. The future looked great. Then, he was told he had cancer.
Lee approached cancer the way he had approached life. He was going to beat it. However, as time lingered and the disease grew worse, it became apparent to those of us who loved him that he would not win this time. Yet, Lee kept the fight alive. He would not give. His tenacity, courage and true grit showed brighter than it ever had.
Lee Fletcher's life is one we can celebrate. If one had bet on who would succeed, based on one's background, Lee would not have been the place you would have placed your money. However, success, achievement, and virtue are not determined by one's background, but they can be the product of it. Lee's achievement was the product. He molded his past into an initiative for his future. He would build stability and security where little had existed. He would demonstrate virtue, courage, and faith because he lived virtue, courage and faith. Such was Lee Fletcher.
Lee had his critics, but, when someone fights to come from nowhere to somewhere, critics are a dime a dozen. Lee never listened to the carping. He bowed his neck and kept going. Lee knew first hand that trying to improve one's lot in life exacts a price. Fear of failure, total focus, and a complete commitment always exact a price. Yet, Lee paid it. He did not ask for a favor, seek a shortcut, or request a handout. Lee made a difference for himself, his family, his friends, his community, and his state and nation. Lee was personal responsibility personified.
Like all of his family and friends, I will miss him. I will miss him greatly. Yet, I am a better person for knowing Lee. He was one of my role models in spite of being much younger. Many people thought Lee and I were related, but we just shared a very good Scottish name. However, Lee was family. He was my brother, and I look forward to the day that I will see him again.
St. Francis of Assisi challenges all to "preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words". As Lee grew weaker, his preaching grew stronger. Lee did not have to use words. The way he dealt with the ravages of cancer was words enough. The power of God and the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ, were clearly present in this good and decent man.
Roy Fletcher is a nationally recognized media/political consultant. He resides in Baton Rouge, La.