Portrait from the August 1923 North Carolina Journal of Pharmacology.
Following North Carolina legislator Gladstone D. Gatling's profile on July 31st, we continue our stay in the Tar Heel State to take a peek at the life of one term state senator Permillas Arten Lee, a prominent resident of the city of Dunn. A druggist for many years prior to his service in state government, Lee had gained additional distinction as the President of the North Carolina Pharmaceutical Association, being elected to that post in 1923.
A resident of North Carolina for the entirety of his life, Permillas Arten Lee was born in Johnson County, North Carolina on June 15, 1880, being the son of Jesse and Henrietta Blackman Lee. Sadly, I have no intriguing backstory as to how or why Lee was bestowed the unique name "Permillas." The name is of unknown origin and has two variations in spelling, "Permillias" and "Parmillas."
"P.A." Lee (as some sources list him) was a graduate of the Poplar Grove High School and later went on to attend the Turlington Institute at Smithfield from 1900 to 1901. Deciding upon a career as a pharmacist, Lee enrolled at the University of North Carolina's School of Pharmacy and in June 1903 passed the board of pharmacy examination. During the latter portion of that year Lee was employed by the Benson Drug Co., and in the following year was affiliated with two druggist firms located in Raleigh and Dunn. He earned his pharmacy license in 1905 and in that same year permanently relocated to Dunn, where he joined the druggist firm of C.I. Wilson.
In 1909 Permillas Lee married to Hautence Thornton (1888-1957), to whom he was wed for over forty years. The couple would later have three children: Edna Earle (1913-1979), David (birth-date unknown) and Permillas Arten Jr. (1921-1982). Of these children, Permillas Jr. would go on to prominence in his own right, being an associate professor of physical education at the University of Florida, as well as an author.
After several years under C.I. Wilson's employ, P.A. Lee purchased a partnership in the business, the firm undergoing a name change to Wilson and Lee in 1912. Having joined the North Carolina Pharmaceutical Association several years previously, Lee became a member of its executive committee in 1915 and a life member three years later. He would later advance to the vice-presidency of that organization in the early 1920s and in 1923 was elected as its president.
Lee served a one year term as president of the NCPA and in 1924 made his first significant move into politics when he was elected as the Mayor of Dunn, North Carolina. Serving in that capacity from 1924-27, he had previously served three years as a town commissioner from 1921-24. In November 1934 Lee was elected to represent the 12th senatorial district in the North Carolina State Senate and took his seat at the start of the 1935-37 session. During his term Lee served on the following Senate committees: Congressional Districts; Corporations; Counties Cities and Towns; Distribution of the Governor's Message; Engrossed Bills; Immigration; Justices of the Peace; Public Health; Public Roads; Trustees of the University and Water Commerce. Lee would also serve as chairman of the committee on the Institutions for the Blind.
Following the conclusion of his term in the senate, Permillas Lee continued to have a prominent role in Dunn. In 1944 he and a partner, C.A. Butler, became the managers of a new bus terminal constructed in town and from 1950-51 served as a member of the NCPA President's Advisory Committee. Lee is recorded as having suffered from ill health the last several months of his life and died at his home in Dunn on March 21, 1955 at age 74. His wife Hautence survived him by two years and both were interred at the Greenwood Cemetery in Dunn.
From the Carolina Journal of Pharmacy, 1955.