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A descendant of the Lee family of Virginia, daughter of Louisville banker William Paca Lee and his wife, née Lily Hill, Linda Belle Lee was, in her youth, a noted beauty. She was introduced by friends to Edward Russell Thomas, a son of Union general Samuel Thomas, and owner of the New York Morning Telegraph (and who later became the first American to kill someone in a car accident), and married him on June 29, 1901 at Newport, Rhode Island, when she was 17. They lived a life of luxury, with houses in Palm Beach, Manhattan, and Newport. It was said that her favorite "department store" was Van Cleef & Arpels. They divorced on October 26, 1912, reportedly due to his abuse.
Thomas and Cole Porter met on January 30, 1918, at the wedding of Henry Potter Russell to heiress Ethel Borden Harriman, daughter of railroad and investment banking tycoon J. Borden Harriman and his wife, née Florence "Daisy" Hurst, at the Hôtel Ritz Paris.
Linda and Cole were married on December 18, 1919, in the city hall of the 18ème arrondissement of Paris. From 1920 to 1929 the Porters lived at 13 rue Monsieur, a house next door to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and with a garden adjoining the future residence of Nancy Mitford. They were married 34 years, and although they had no children born of their marriage, Linda conceived and miscarried.
Linda died from emphysema in the couple's apartment in the Waldorf Towers, leaving an estate of over one and a half million dollars in which Cole Porter had a lifetime interest. She was buried in the Porter family plot at Mount Hope Cemetery in Peru, Indiana.
Thomas is portrayed by Alexis Smith in the 1946 film Night and Day and by Ashley Judd in the 2004 film De-Lovely. A one-woman show about Linda's life with Porter, Love, Linda: The Life Of Mrs. Cole Porter, starring jazz vocalist Stevie Holland, ran for two separate engagements starting October 29, 2009, and closing June 9, 2010, off-Broadway at the Triad Theater.