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Lee (Sammy) papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Organization

  • Contributing Institution: USC Libraries East Asian Library
    Title: Sammy Lee papers
    Creator: Lee, Sammy, 1920-2016
    Identifier/Call Number: 3030
    Identifier/Call Number: /repositories/6/resources/1519
    Physical Description: 4.083 Linear Feet 4 boxes
    Date (inclusive): 1920-2010
    Abstract: Sammy Lee was a two-time Korean American Olympic gold medal winning diver, physician, and USC alum. This small collection consists of awards, certificates, audiovisual materials, scrapbooks, copies of a biography, and other various ephemera documenting Lee's life and career.
    Language of Material: English, Korean.

    Biographical Note

    Born on August 1, 1920, Sammy Lee was a Korean American gold medal Olympian and physician. Lee won gold for platform diving at the 1948 Olympics in London and at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. He was the first Asian American to win an Olympic Gold Medal for the United States, as well as the first man to win back-to-back gold medals in Olympic platform diving.
    Growing up in Highland Park in Los Angeles, Lee faced ethnic prejudice; he was only able to use a neighboring pool in Pasadena once a week on Wednesdays, when it was dubbed "International Day." Unwilling to let this impede his practicing, Lee's coach dug a pit in his backyard and filled it with sand so Lee could practice his jumping.
    Lee received his undergraduate degree from Occidental as a student athlete. In 1947, he received his M.D. from USC's School of Medicine. He also joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps, where he served from 1953-1955.
    Despite his achievements and fame, Lee continued to experience ethnic prejudice in the 1950s when he attempted to purchase a home in Garden Grove, California, but was told he could not. After retiring from diving, Lee became a coach to the likes of Bob Webster, Greg Louganis, and Pat McCormick. He was also a physician and member of the Korean-American Medical Association.
    Lee was married to Rosalind Wong and had two children. He died on December 2 2016, at age 96, due to complications from pneumonia.

    Scope and Contents

    The Sammy Lee papers, 1920-2010, consist of awards, certificates, audiovisual materials, scrapbooks, copies of a biography, and other various ephemera documenting Lee's life and career as both a two-time gold medal winning Korean-American Olympic athlete as well as a physician. The collection comprises primarily two large scrapbooks, one each to commemorate Sammy Lee's participation in the 1948 and 1952 Olympic Games. The scrapbooks are filled with photographs, newspaper clippings, and other memorabilia related to those Olympic Games. The collection includes two copies of "Not Without Honor: The Story of Sammy Lee" by Molly Frick Wampler; one is the published copy from Santa Barbara: The Fithian Press, 1987, the other is a more extensive printed typescript of the book. The collection also includes awards and certificates presented to Sammy Lee for various events and accomplishments, including sports awards and presidential recognitions. The rest of the collection consists of a few video cassettes, one DVD, and a copy of the 24th Anniversary Korean American Medical Association Membership Directory.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Advance notice required for access.

    Conditions Governing Use

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of the Korean Heritage Library. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Korean Heritage Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Sammy Lee, 1989

    Preferred Citation

    [Box/Folder# or Item name]. Sammy Lee Papers, Collection no. 3030, Korean Heritage Library, USC Libraries, University of Southern California.

    Processing Information

    This collection is not fully processed.


    The collection is organized in the following four series: Biographical materials, Awards and certificates, Audiovisual materials, and Scrapbooks.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Asian American men -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
    Divers -- United States -- Archival resources
    Korean American physicians -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
    Olympic athletes -- United States -- Archival resources
    Video recordings
    Olympics -- History -- Archival resources
    Lee, Sammy, 1920-2016 -- Archives
    Louganis, Greg, 1960- -- Archives
    Korean-American Medical Association -- Archives
    Olympic Games (14th : 1948 : London, England) -- Archives
    Olympic Games (15th : 1952 : Helsinki, Finland) -- Archives