EDGAR LEE had a simple idea for dealing with people who do not contribute to their communities: "Lock 'em up!"
Neglecting the needs of your community was a crime in his book. Here was a man who spent most of his life working for others, especially children and young people, and battling the drug dealers who drag the city down, and he couldn't stand to think that those who detract from their neighborhoods are free to keep doing it.
"This little man had more fight in him than a big dog," said legendary drug fighter C.B. Kimmins, who marched on the drug corners with Edgar.
Edgar might have been small in stature, but he stood tall against those who would destroy the city. He ran a development corporation that worked to educate and find jobs for young people, and he marched with Kimmins and other drug fighters in every neighborhood where the dealers held sway.
But despite his passionate commitment to community betterment, Edgar was also a man with a big sense of humor, always telling jokes and laughing it up.
He had the nurses and orderlies in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania laughing with him in the hallways the day before he died.
He died Wednesday at age 84. He lived in Mantua.
Kimmins was with him in the hospital, and he told the personnel, "Do you know you have a famous drug fighter here?"
"He had a great personality," said his son Jeffrey Lee. "He was always laughing and joking."
When Edgar went out to do battle in the drug wars, he wore a hat bedecked with buttons with various "stop-drugs" slogans.
He also had banners outside of his home with messages like, "God helps those who help themselves."
His anger at people who are negative influences on their neighborhood was deepened two weeks ago when his car was stolen from in front of his home.
"The citizens are not helping me," he told Kimmins.
"He was sure people knew who took his car," Kimmins said. "They know people who are driving stolen cars and dealing in stolen merchandise, but they won't speak up."
"If they're not going to be productive, they need to be put away," Edgar would say.
In an interview in 2001 with the Daily News' Elmer Smith, who was writing about the infamous Lex Street drug massacre in Mill Creek that January, Edgar said, "The worst thing happening around her right now is the silence. It's more dangerous than an atomic bomb."
Standing in the 800 block of Lex Street, near where seven people had been gunned down, Edgar said, "There must be 10,000 good people down here who are scared of about 24 thugs. Any time a majority is ruled by a minority, it's against God's plan."
Edgar could be ferocious on the drug corners, confronting the dealers.
"He would tell them off," Kimmins said. "He would say, 'You're a disgrace to your neighborhood!' "
"He was a valiant type of guy," his son said. "He was a Marine."
"They called him 'The Lion,' " said his daughter, Linda Bracy. "He was a really serious community activist. That was his passion."
But Edgar did not only chastize the dealers, he would talk to them, try to reason with them and get them to change their ways.
"He had a great knack for getting young people to listen to him," Kimmins said. "They would take the time to listen, to hear what he had to say."
Edgar created the New World Development Corp. at 4513 Lancaster Ave., in a building he owned. Its purpose was to provide educational and occupational help to needy young people.
He and volunteer workers would go block to block to find youngsters who could use the programs. Asked in an interview in 1999 what the goal was, he said: "Self-improvement for the entire community, Everyone has responsibility for their actions and conduct."
Edgar was born in the city's Frankford section to Charles and Sarah Lee. He attended West Philadelphia High School, and served in the Marines during the Korean War.
He was active in Democratic politics and served as a committeeman and ward leader in the 39th Ward.
He worked as a driver for the Martz Bus Line and drove the private bus for the 2601 Parkway development. He retired in the early '90s and devoted himself to community activism.
Besides his son and daughter, he is survived by four other sons, Tyrone, Curtis, Carl and Ronald; a sister, Bernice Ellerbee; 30 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.