Earle Leland “Lee” Kitts, Jr. died December 20th, 2021, in Hendersonville, NC. He was born Oct 18th, 1936, in Little Rock, AR, to Earle and Ruth Kitts.
Lee’s love of nature and adventure was evident in the countless exotic travels around the world with his wife and family. Special traits were his kindness, patience, brilliant mind, passion for civil rights and elevating the underprivileged, hands-on devotion towards his kids and grandchildren, and 60-yrs of unwavering love for his wife Lynn. During his career at DuPont, Lee’s uncanny physical strength was well known. He was notorious for tightening lab equipment valves so tightly that colleagues could not access them. At age 83 he was using physics formulas to leverage 600-lb boulders to build a creek dam. For decades Lee annually trucked to his beloved Rocky Mountains for a 2-month ski odyssey. He bred Labrador Retrievers and was a true dog whisperer. Lee enjoyed collecting good wine, eating spicy food, and listening to opera.
Growing up in Little Rock, Lee achieved the highest possible Eagle Scout award of Silver Explorer and was a den leader before attending the University of Mississippi on a Naval ROTC scholarship. He earned his B.A. in Physics and Mathematics from Ole Miss in 1958. After serving two years at the Pentagon in Naval Intelligence, Lee was awarded a German government scholarship to study at Munich’s Technical University to pursue post graduate work in Physics. There he met the love of his life, Jesslynn Johnson of Mobile AL, a fellow post-graduate student. They married in 1962 and moved to Dallas, TX. Lee worked at Texas Instruments while attending Southern Methodist University for an M.S. degree in Physics. Their daughter Kathleen and son David were born during that time. In 1967 they moved to Chapel Hill, where Lee pursued his doctorate at the University of North Carolina.
After Lee finished his Physics PhD, the family moved to DuPont’s headquarters in Wilmington, DE. In 1979 Lee was transferred to DuPont’s Brevard plant where he developed and patented one of the most widely used mammography films in the world. As a Senior Research Fellow, he pioneered new techniques in medical imaging for early detection of breast cancer and became a consultant for many organizations and government agencies to improve standards for mammography screening.
As a founding board member of “Friends of the Falls,” Lee was a passionate advocate for preserving the Dupont State Forest from being destroyed by private developers. The success of this campaign created a legacy of wondrous beauty to be enjoyed by generations.
Lee and Lynn had many adventures in almost every continent of the planet: scuba diving, safari trekking, and sampling indigenous cuisines of remote peoples. One of their favorite places was Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula where they annually traveled with family and friends for the past 40 years.
Lee is survived by his wife Lynn, daughter Kathleen Malik (Steve) of Raleigh, NC; son David Kitts (Sarah) of Duncan, SC; brother Ronald Kitts (Helen) of Memphis, TN; grandchildren Katelynn, Morgan, Daniel, Madison, Skylar, Macey, and Samantha.
He was predeceased by his sister Betty Ruth White. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Friends of DuPont Forest.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Sat. Jan 8th at 3 pm at First United Methodist Church in Hendersonville. Burial arrangements with Shuler Funeral Home.
Date: Saturday, January 8, 2022
Time: 3:00 pm
Hendersonville First United Methodist Church
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