Finding aid for the Sammy Lee papers 3030

Lindsay Long, Sarah Cassone
USC Libraries East Asian Library
2017 December
Doheny Memorial Library
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles, California 90089-1825

Language of Material: English
Contributing Institution: USC Libraries East Asian Library
Title: Sammy Lee papers
creator: Lee, Sammy, 1920-2006
Identifier/Call Number: 3030
Identifier/Call Number: 1989
Physical Description: 1 Linear Feet 3 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.


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

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 primarly 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.

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.

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.

Preferred Citation

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Sammy Lee.

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
Lee, Sammy, 1920-2006 -- Archives
Louganis, Greg, 1960- -- Archives
Korean-American Medical Association -- Archives
Olympic Games (14th : 1948 : London, England) -- Archives
Olympic Games (15th : 1952 : Helsinki, Finland) -- Archives


Biographical materials 469067

Box 1, Item 1

"Not Without Honor: The Story of Sammy Lee" [published edition signed by Sammy Lee] 469068 1987

Box 1, Folder 1-13

"Not Without Honor: The Story of Sammy Lee" [typescript, 402 leaves, double-spaced] 469069 1990

Physical Description: 13 folders
Box 1, Item 2

Korean-American Medical Association. 24th Anniversary Membership Directory 469070 1974-1998


Awards and certificates 469071

Box 1, Folder 14

Awards and certificates 1953-1995

Physical Description: 1 folder
Box 1, Folder 15

Awards and Certificates 1996-2016

Physical Description: 1 folder
Box 1, Item 3

Skull and Dagger Initiation 1989

Physical Description: 1 clamshell album
Box 1, Item 4

Paul Harris Fellow undated

Physical Description: 1 clamshell album

Audiovisual materials 469076

Box 1, Item 5

(DVD) Sammy Lee: two programs (1. Helsinki, 1952; 2. Sammy & Greg) 469079

Box 1, Item 6

(VHS) Sammy Lee/Greg Louganis, Seoul '88 (16:32) 469077

Box 1, Item 7

(VHS) Sam & Greg, Seoul '88: 16 Days of Glory Part 2 (44:09)

Box 1, Item 8

(VHS) Dr. Sammy Lee 469078



Box 1

Olympic Games London, England 1948

Physical Description: 1 oversized box
Box 2

Olympic Games, Helsinki, Finland 1952

Physical Description: 1 scrapbooks.