Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

Carl Lee Reflects on Civil Rights Movement


The more Carl Lee learned, the more he remembered.

Lee, who will turn 55 on Saturday, was born in South Charleston, West Virginia, in 1961.

Lee was a little young to fully process some of the most significant moments of the Civil Rights Movement, but his mother made sure her children understood its significance.

The community marched in protest of a segregated swimming pool that was eventually integrated. The pool later closed, turning the page of a painful chapter. Lee also remembered being denied service as a freshman at Marshall in 1979.

The Vikings selected Lee in the seventh round of the 1983 NFL Draft and he went on to be a three-time Pro Bowler during his 11 seasons in Minnesota. He closed his career with a season in New Orelans (1994) before becoming head coach of West Virginia State, a position he held at the historically black school from 1996-2005.

Through all of his journeys, Lee remembered what his mother instilled in him.

"The Civil Rights Movement made a major impact on [my mother], and she made it a very strong emphasis on me," Lee told "One of the things she would always tell me before I would leave to come back to Minnesota was never forget where you've come from, and I never really understood why she was saying that, but she wanted me to always know whatever success I would have came from that movement.

"That possibility for me to get to the Vikings, to go to college, to go to high school, to play sports, all that came from the Civil Rights Movement, and that was the impact it had for me," Lee continued. "It took me awhile to get it, but once I got it, I love hearing about black history."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.