Chinatown Leader Herbert Kee Dies

Herbert and Virginia Kee at a function of the political club they helped co-found, the United Democratic Organization, in 2015. (Photo via The Villager)

Services were held April 7 for Dr. Herbert Kee, a Chinatown native and community leader, who passed away on March 15. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for four years before succumbing to complications at the age of 88, reports Lincoln Anderson in The Villager. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Virginia Kee, also a key figure in the Chinatown community.

Public officials including State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Reps. Grace Meng, Nydia Velazquez and Carolyn Maloney, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer and former Comptroller John Liu were among the more than 300 in attendance.

Anderson writes:

As Corky Lee, known as “the unofficial Asian-American photographer laureate,” put it, “The Kees are to Chinatown politics what the Kennedys are to American politics.”


As a family physician, he treated patients in his Oliver St. brownstone regardless of their ability to pay. In addition to his private practice, he treated patients at Gouverneur Hospital.

He was an early supporter of the Chinatown Health Clinic, now the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. He retired from medical practice in 1997, though continued to volunteer at the clinic into his 80s.

In 1965, he and Virginia founded the Chinese-American Planning Council, today the nation’s largest Asian-American social-services organization.

The couple were also founding members of the Chinatown political club United Democratic Organization in the 1970s. Virginia currently serves as its president emeritus.

In addition to these achievements, Lee had a political career that spanned more than a decade. Find out more, along with his family story and his numerous other contributions to Chinatown and its residents, at The Villager.

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