Vernon Leland Bounds lived a very interesting and productive life. He died last week at his home in Chapel Hill at the age of 97, a man with a resume as long as his years.
Lee Bounds, a former commissioner of the N.C. Department of Correction, was known for his progressive ideas to reform the correction system. He was a strong advocate for rehabilitation when that was a distinctly minority view. In the course of a breathtakingly productive life, he brought along a number of North Carolina governors to enlightened views of how the state should improve its treatment of prisoners toward a goal of making them productive members of society. Yet when a 1968 riot happened at Raleigh’s Central Prison, he acted with toughness.
Bounds, also a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, worked with Republican and Democratic governors. He twice headed Correction, from the mid-1960s until the mid-1970s, and then in the early 1990s for Gov. Jim Martin. He was an intellectual, a straight-shooter, a man often sought out for advice by political leaders of both parties and of several generations.
North Carolina has had a number of dedicated public servants, but none more dedicated than Lee Bounds, who understood the rewards in service that made a state a better place.