Once again QNotes is excited and proud to present our annual choice for Person of the Year. With so many community members making positive contributions and having resonating impacts on the lives of others, the selection of just one person is always difficult.
When Attorney Lee Robertson learned he’d been selected this year he modestly shared his shock and surprise while humbly adding, “There were lots of other people I thought of who deserved this.”
QNotes spoke with some folks who couldn’t disagree more and also found Robertson worthy and deserving of the recognition.
Born in Winston-Salem North Carolina, Lee Robertson has lived in Charlotte for 30 years. He’s not a big fan of cooking and often stops at for breakfast before beginning a typically busy day.
During those days he’s missed by his two feisty Chihuahua mixed breed dogs and a loving partner, Britton Alvarez, who keeps him laughing. A graduate of North Carolina State University with B.A.s in History and Religious studies, Robertson is a prominent Business Litigation Lawyer [Charlotte school of Law, J.D.] who is deeply ensconced in legal problem solving.
With numerous bar admissions and a focus on business litigation and non-profit organizations, he’s served in many capacities for the Mecklenburg County Bar (10 positions since 2014).
Queer Activist, Attorney and Episcopal Saint Pauli Murray once said, “True community is based upon equality, mutuality and reciprocity. It affirms the richness of individual diversity as well as the common human ties that bind us together.”
The work and contributions of Robertson, a Pauli Murray LGBTQ+ Bar Association Member, truly epitomizes Murray’s quote.
Bethany Corrigan, Executive Director for Transcend Charlotte agrees. In fact, she spoke to QNotes about Robertson rather enthusiastically.
“Lee is without vice or ulterior motive or bureaucratic approach. [He’s] just truly one of the most selfless advocates in the Charlotte community that I’ve ever come across.
“I think the Charlotte community can be a bit fragmented at times and Lee has crossed over and provided equal support to everyone and every organization he’s been involved with. He’s the legal counsel for Transcend and also a good friend.”
When not practicing law for paying clients, Lee is an avid volunteer and has provided pro bono legal counsel to over 30 organizations. Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce Inc., Carolina Piedmont Athletic Association, Inc, Phi Gamma Delta, Davidson College Chapter, Savannah River Academy and Time Out Youth, Inc. are among them.
What motivates an attorney with such a lucrative skill set to volunteer his time and services?
According to Robertson, “It’s something that I’ve always been passionate about and as a lawyer, I have a unique set of skills that our organizations really need. Legal advice and guidance are often out of financial reach. Volunteering allows me to contribute by using something I know.”
Whether it be governance, organization formation or the day-to-day operations of employment, contract formation or occasional disputes, the organizations Lee Robertson assists aren’t the only ones benefiting. The contributions Robertson makes move him as well.
His involvement with Charlotte’s Rain, Inc. (which works towards empowering persons living with HIV and those at risk to be healthy and stigma-free) is but one example. Robertson describes how personally rewarding helping others with his time and talent can be: “The most impactful thing that I’ve experienced so far has been in my work with Rain. The Havens, an affordable housing apartment complex was historically for people living with AIDS [and] built in the 1990s by a group of community members who wanted to provide a safe and loving place for people dying of AIDS.
“For the past two years, Rain has been carrying the torch for the Havens. They’ve taken ownership of it, expanded the programs and expanded the financial support for the Havens to be able to continue to provide support for people living with AIDS and other chronic conditions.
“So, I chaired the committee that worked on the transition from a community member run organization to one run by a HIV Prevention organization. It’s very important work and I’m really excited to have been a part of it.”
Seniors, young people, LGBTQ+ or otherwise, many Carolinians have experienced the benefit of Lee’s time and talent.
Stan Schneider met Lee Robertson through Judith Jeffries. The two are both members of the Charlotte LGBTQ Elders, a group formed in 2018 with the goal of serving as a resource for LGBTQ individuals in the Charlotte area who are 55 and over.
According to Schneider, a University of North Carolina-Charlotte Biology Professor and Elders member, Lee has helped the group from the very beginning with the writing of bylaws and acquiring 501c3 status.
“Without Lee, we would not be an independent organization like we are now. He’s always been a supporter. He’s helped us with IRS issues, donations and other things. He’s just great, I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s just a decent human being. He deserves this award.”
Fellow Elders member Judith Jeffries described Robertson as tireless. “The man is tireless. [He’s] dedicated and smart as a ding dang whip. Lee is like an angel that’s floated down from a cloud and landed.”
In addition to his pro-bono work, Robertson also has found time to volunteer with the Plus Collective/Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund; serve as a managing board member for the Keith Family YMCA and serve as the Wesley View Town Homes Owners President, while contributing to publications for the North Carolina Bar Association, and so much more.
Despite his full calendar of work and volunteer commitments, Lee recognizes and values quality down time. He’s looking forward to going on a couple of trips, attending a few weddings and spending time with his family for Christmas.
He even has a 2022 wish list and at the top is something many may share: “To see our community emerge from the pandemic stronger and more connected than before,” he says.