John Milton Lee graduated from the Danville High School in 1910 and entered Indiana University and there completed three years of pre-medical work. He later became a student at Temple University (1915) but was compelled to leave school because of a death in the family. He enlisted in the 349th Field Artillery in March of 1918 and served overseas as a First Class Sergeant and Gunner. His battery enjoys the unique distinction of having been the first battery of Negro Artillerymen ever to open fire upon an enemy. John Milton Lee fired the first shot.
He helped organize, and for several years was president of, the Fairview Gold Club, the first Negro Golf Club in Pennsylvania. In 1931 he married Mary Walker Robinson. Vocationally, he was engaged in several enterprises. For eight years, he conducted a successful catering business in Philadelphia; he organized and served as Vice President and Secretary of the Mutual Emergency Union, a mutual aid company in Philadelphia. He was also a member of the Board of Managers of the Columbia Community Branch of the YMCA.