Mrs. Lucille Thomas Lea is from Raleigh, NC, and spent most of her professional career working abroad at our U.S. Embassies, and in Washington, DC. She considers her work in the field of funeral service to be her calling, a ministry, to be exact, not a second career.
Mrs. Lea’s first career was in foreign affairs and international management, where she was a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service, Diplomatic Corps. One of the first Black women to pursue a career in the field of diplomacy, Mrs. Lea rose quickly through the ranks from Junior Officer to Senior Foreign Service Officer, one of the highest service designations. Prior to joining the Department of State, Mrs. Lea was a researcher at the U.S. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Serving in the Department of State in Washington, D.C. and at U.S. Embassies abroad, she was frequently the most senior ranking minority woman in the country where she was assigned. At the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, Canada, where she was Minister-Counselor for Administrative Affairs, she managed large, multi-lingual and multi-cultural staffs of four hundred plus, and managed multi-million dollar budgets. Her position required that she travel across Canada from Vancouver in the West to Halifax in the East. She was also the most senior ranking minority at the U..S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Mrs. Lea’s first assignment to the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France was followed by assignments to U.S. Embassies in Tunis, Tunisia, (North Africa), and Dakar, Senegal (West Africa).
During her career, Mrs. Lea conducted official diplomatic missions to Egypt, Mexico, Panama, El Salvador, Colombia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mauritania, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, The Gambia, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. During her visits, she met with senior officials and conducted sensitive briefings.
Due to her extensive experience and facility with foreign languages, the Department of State selected Mrs. Lea to attend the prestigious National War College, Defense University, at Fort McNair, Washington, DC. Her classmates included the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and a former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. She was the sole Black woman in the class of 186.
Mrs. Lea is a graduate of Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh., NC. She later earned degrees from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the National War College, Fort McNair, Washington, D.C. She also studied abroad at the L’Universite de Lyon in Lyon, France. She speaks French, Spanish and German. Her most endearing memory of her world travels is her private audience with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India.
At home, she is a frequent guest lecturer at Shaw University, Saint Augustine’s University, local high schools and civic organizations. She firmly believes that our young people must embrace the reality of having a global outlook on life and be prepared accordingly.
She was a Charter Member of the Advisory Board of International Affairs and Management at North Carolina Central University, Durham, and N.C. She has authored and co-authored numerous articles and is working on her memoirs.
How does this tie into the funeral business? Here’s the answer.
Mrs. Lea considers it a blessing to be able to use her skills in the funeral service field. Her foreign affairs background has enabled Lea Funeral Home to broaden its services to the growing international community in Raleigh and surrounding areas. She is a strong support for her husband and the funeral home’s community outreach program. The funeral home has served local families originally from Europe, Asia, Africa, South & Central America, and the Caribbean. Today, Lea Funeral Home is recognized as the premier expert in handling State Funerals for dignitaries where attention to detail is critical. That same attention to detail, however, is accorded every family served. A warm, and caring individual, Mrs. Lea believes that we all need a hug and a shoulder to lean on in times of sorrow.
Prior to retiring and relocating to Raleigh, she met and married Rudy N. Lea, Sr., President and Founder of Lea Funeral Home in Raleigh. To better understand his field, she enrolled in the University of the District of Columbia’s School of Mortuary Science. She later completed her studies at Fayetteville Technical Community College’s School of Mortuary Science, Fayetteville, NC, graduating with high honors.
She is a member of the Capital City Sertoma Club, the Alpha Theta Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., Harvard University Alumni Triangle Club, Saint Augustine University Alumni, and North Carolina Friends of the Foreign Service, among others. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards.
Mrs. Lea is a member of historic First Baptist Church in downtown Raleigh, where she has served in several church ministries. A lover of music, she sings in the Senior Choir. For a long time, she shared her vocal talents with the Gospel Choir and the Praise Team as well. She has been featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine, Jet Magazine, Who’s Who in American Women, and the Department of State Newsletter.