A powerful agent of reform in Oregon’s government and private sector, Lee Edward Moore Sr. died Feb. 27, 2021, just a few weeks shy of his 75th birthday.
A key figure who impacted the course of Oregon history, Lee served as a turnaround expert for big institutions including the Oregon Bureau of Labor, the Oregon Department of General Services, Tektronix and Precision Castparts.
In recent years, Portland's housing management agency, Home Forward -- formerly the Housing Authority of Portland -- named its new community facility at Stephens Creek Crossing in Southwest Portland the Lee E. Moore Opportunity Center, commemorating his contributions to the city.
Lee described himself as “basically a detail guy who asks a lot of questions, likes to know how things work and are put together.”
He was born March 11, 1946, in Portland, Oregon. He was the son of Audrey Brown, originally from Arkansas. He was raised by his mom and stepfather, Lonnie Dotsey, also originally from Arkansas.
Moore’s parents traveled to Oregon during World War II for jobs at the shipyard, where Audrey was a real-life Rosie the Riveter. Lee was two years old when the Vanport flood destroyed the city. You can listen to his oral history of what happened to his family in the video below.
Lee lived in public housing as a baby, which many observers recalled years later when he worked to help rebuild New Columbia -- the biggest housing project in Oregon history. In 1951, Lee’s parents built a home in a White residential area of the St. Johns neighborhood, where Lee went to Peninsular Grade School -- both the old and the new. He attended Roosevelt High School, where he was All State and All City in football, graduating in 1965.
He went on to earn a BA degree from Marylhurst University; a Construction and Real Estate Development Management Certification from the New York University Executive Development Program; and a Negotiation and Contract Resolution Certification from the Harvard University/MIT Executive Development Program.
Lee married his wife, Pamela Ane Moore, in Edmonton, Alberta, on April 10, 1978. His life goal was to achieve an optimum balance of family, community, and career.
“This was the genesis of my volunteer work,” Lee said. “Family first, because they are my life.”
His hobbies and special interests were twofold: construction projects and community service. He loved camping, riding his bike, and walking.
Lee led reorganizations, but he started out as a law enforcement officer who built programs in public schools. Working as a Portland police officer assigned to schools in the North and Northeast parts of the city, he established relationships with kids and worked with school staff to protect the students against gang activity and drug sales. Lee also worked with Multnomah County, Clackamas County, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Department on their contacts with students. For his efforts, he received a Law Enforcement Executive Policy (LEEP) Criminal Justice Award.
As a management executive, Lee went on to serve as director of the Civil Rights Division at the Oregon State Department of Labor, where he implemented new laws against gender discrimination and more. Later he taught classes at Portland Community College on civil rights laws in the workplace.
In the construction and management field, Lee served as director of construction for the State of Oregon; also director of the Purchasing and Distribution Division, and director of the Capital Construction Division, both in the Oregon Department of General Services. In that latter position, Lee built beautiful public works and burnished his reputation for being on time and avoiding cost overruns.
He managed development of the stunning Sprague Fountain at the capitol in Salem; the historic State of Oregon Executive Building, also in Salem; the modernistic Eugene State Office Building remodel; and construction of the landmark Portland State Office Building, famously completed “on schedule and on budget.”
In the private sector, Lee worked as site operations manager for Tektronix, where he helped to lay out and manage the transition from manual to automated electronic devices and developed new manufacturing facilities; organization development manager for Titanium Group and Precision Castparts, where he was hired to help change the management culture.
Lee also served as the State of Oregon Liquor Control Acting Director, tasked with obtaining better alignment between the hearings unit and the rest of the organization, serving as executive until a permanent director was hired.
He was also the first-ever deputy director of the Oregon State Lottery, where he developed and managed construction of major new headquarters, helped build a more efficient management structure, and won awards for building strong ties between the Lottery and Asian, Hispanic and Black organizations.
While at the Lottery, the governor’s office nominated Lee as a senior fellow in the American Leadership Forum. For one year, this organization of senior executives from around the state forms a cross section of business, non-profit, and government leadership, to use their collected knowledge and experience to understand significant issues affecting each other’s areas, and then offer possible solutions.
As General Manager and CEO of Clackamas River Water, Lee guided a cultural shift to reorganize the agency and tame its overreaching board of directors.
In one of his most impactful roles, Lee served on the board of directors of the Housing Authority of Portland for 12 years, including two years as chair and one year as chair emeritus. His focus was to better align the mission of the Housing Authority to the needs of the people. This put Lee on the team that developed three award-winning “Hope 6” programs, which were affordable housing projects developed with funds from the federal government. In his work on affordable housing, Lee ensured the needs of the tenants were included in the design and development of each unit.
While he was board chair in 2011, Lee was asked by Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, now deceased, to come in and help with the history-making Williams Avenue Bicycle Project, “to calm things down,” Lee said.
As a volunteer in his youth, Lee worked at the Model Cities Program on the Law and Justice Committee, after deconstruction of the Black neighborhood along Williams and Mississippi Streets. Later he also served on the board of directors at Neighborhood House community center serving Northwest neighborhoods.
“It's the ability to make the complex simple,” he said.
“Most of the time when I went into a place that was having difficulties, my job was to go in and look at the organization to see how to make it work better. Getting people to come together and work for a common goal, to set their egos aside.”
Other highlights of Lee’s career included working with The Skanner News publisher Bernie Foster to create The Skanner Foundation scholarship program.
The Skanner News publisher Bernie Foster worked and collaborated with Moore for many years on community service and municipal projects, especially The Skanner Foundation scholarship program, which Foster says Moore helped establish.
“This guy was a pioneer,” Foster said. “And he used to tell me: ‘Bernie, follow the money.’”
Foster recalled that Lee was instrumental in fundraising for the bronze statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr that graces the front of the Oregon Convention Center. While raising support for the statue, Lee also raised tens of thousands of dollars for local Black students and others to attend universities, Foster says.
Foster shared stories of the racism Moore faced while working in the halls of government, but detailed times when Moore chose to forgive colleagues instead of pushing for punishment.
“He was a tremendous person, and he will be sorely missed,” Foster said.
Lee Moore Sr. is survived by his wife, Pamela, of Tigard, Oregon; daughter Erica Lynn Grey, of Los Angeles, California; son Lee Moore Jr., of Portland; daughter-in-law Sara C. Moore of Portland; and his pride and joy, granddaughter, Audrey Willow Moore.