Harlem’s Robert Lee Dunham, First McDonald’s Restaurant Owner In NYC

Robert L DURHAMRobert Lee Dunham, age 78, died on May 17, 2011 at the New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. He was President and CEO of TCB Management Corporation. In 1972,

Lee Dunham made history by opening the first McDonald’s restaurant in the City of New York. A pioneer in McDonald’s, he was a multiple store Owner with restaurants located in New York and New Jersey.Lee prided himself in running outstanding restaurants, giving back to the community and in creating opportunities for others.

In business, Lee fought tirelessly on behalf of minorities and through his efforts, he successfully helped others to acquire franchises and to become suppliers. With the over 500 employees in his organization, he made their training and development a priority. In his first store, located in the middle of Harlem, Lee spoke openly with gang members, challenging them to rebuild their lives. Then he did what some might say was unthinkable: he hired gang members and put them to work. Lee improved working conditions and once a week he offered his employees classes in customer service and management. He encouraged them to develop personal and professional goals.



A former New York City policeman, Lee Dunham truly believed in giving back to the community and won numerous awards for his business, community and civic involvement. Some of these awards include NAACP Roy Wilkens Humanitarian Award – New York Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Merit Award, US Department of Commerce- MBDA Region II – Harlem Businessman of the Year, New York Urban League – Building Brick Award, and several McDonald’s Corporation awards including USA President’s Award, Ronald Award, and the Golden Arch Award. He was Chairman of the National Black McDonald’s Operators Association from 1982-1986 and at the time of his passing was its Chairman Emeritus.

Lee Dunham was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina on September 12, 1932 and moved to Brooklyn, New York at an early age. After completing high school he enlisted in the United States Air Force. Upon returning to Brooklyn, he joined the New York City Police Department in the motorcycle division. Lee is survived by his wife Linda, who is also a McDonald’s Owner/Operator and his two sons.

A viewing will be held Monday, May 23, from 9:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York, NY. Funeral will immediately follow at 11 a.m. and will be officiated by Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, III. Services by Benta’s Funeral Home in New York, NY.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations may be made in his memory to either the Robert Lee Dunham Abyssinian Baptist Church Scholarship Fund, 132 Odell Clark Place, New York, NY 10030 or RMHC of NY Tri-State Area- African American Future Achievers Scholarship Fund, 105 Eisenhower Parkway, Roseland, NJ 07068.

From Camille Bonds.

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