N.C. Department of Correction--Correction News--August 1997

Woodley Lee Retires

by Bill Poston

When Justice John Webb of the North Carolina Supreme Court walked into the retirement reception for Woodley Lee, Lee broke into a big smile.

"I’ve known him for a long time and have always looked up to him," said Lee who is retiring as deputy director of the Division of Adult Probation and Parole. "He’s been a positive influence over my career and seeing him there was a pleasant surprise."

Webb was a local attorney when Lee returned from the army in 1963 and took a job as a probation officer in Wilson. "I worked for $5,000 a year. The pay was low and it was hard to make ends meet," Lee said. "But I loved the job. I always have."

One of the things Lee loved most of all began when six foot, ten inch Willie Watson became a probation officer in Wilson. Lee built a basketball team around Watson and fired up excitement in Branch H and Robert Guy’s Branch I.

"We had some college players on the team. It was a tall team," Lee said. "We had a lot of fun with it. It created some positive attitudes and boosted morale in our branches. We’d have a tournament and cookout each year. Everyone took part in it."

Lee served as the team’s general manager which played for 8 years, played in the Department of Correction tournament for three years and took second place one year and third place the next in the state Police Olympics.

Another part of his career that Lee says he really enjoyed was working as a unit supervisor. "I was one of the first unit supervisors when the position was created in the 70s," Lee said. "We were getting the first young probation officers with criminal justice degrees coming to work for the agency and we worked with them closely to help them understand the job and the duties that go along with it."

Much has changed over the years in community corrections, but Lee says it all comes down to the relationship between the officer and the offender. "The easiest part of our job is taking someone back into court and sending them to prison," Lee said. "The hardest is helping them make a new life. That basic one-on-one supervision has got to be there. And its has got to come from a dedicated officer."

Lee says he’s proud of what he accomplished working in the division’s central office. Reworking the manual took the paperwork off the officer and helped get him back into the field making personal contact with probationers. "I was glad to see ideas developed like day reporting centers, victims advocates and specialized sex offender caseloads for officers," Lee said. "There’s so much going on. Its all headed in the right direction."

"I hated to see him leave," said Robert Guy, DAPP’s director. "We worked late into the night side-by-side as we reorganized the division and worked to move community corrections in North Carolina in a new direction. He’s not in the office anymore, but I know I can still pick up the phone and get his advice."

"Woodley was committed to his job and concerned about our employees," said Deputy Secretary Theodis Beck. "He was firm in his convictions, had a sense of fair play and a genuine compassion for people. I’m happy to see him claim the victory of a brilliant career."

NC DOC Correction News- August 1997
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