Lee Anderson, veteran Chattanooga newspaperman, dies at age 90

Lee Stratton Anderson, former publisher of the Chattanooga Free Press and one of the longest-serving newspapermen in the nation, died in Atlanta early this morning at age 90, reports the Times-Free Press.

Anderson was a widely known and respected conservative voice, patriot, Christian and civic leader.

Anderson was “a true gentlemen and a great newspaperman,” said Walter E. Hussman Jr., publisher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press and chairman of WEHCO Media.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of an exceptional Tennessean and a Chattanooga icon,” said U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said in a statement. “Lee Anderson’s impact on our city through his many roles at the paper, his civic service, and his passion for serving others, cannot be overstated. I am fortunate to have known him most of my adult life and will miss him dearly. My thoughts and prayers are with the Anderson family, his former colleagues at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, and all those across our city and state who were touched by his life.”

Hussman bought the Free Press from the McDonald family in 1998, but he met Anderson years before that. They got to know each other at gatherings such as the Southern Newspapers Publishers Association’s annual convention.

“Everybody in the industry thought so highly of him,” Hussman said.

…U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who also knew Anderson for decades, noted he “never knew a more principled or hardworking newspaper man than Lee Anderson.”

Alexander noted Anderson was in his newspaper office at 400 E. 11th Street between 4:30 and 5 a.m. “pounding out conservative editorials,” he said in a statement.

Anderson “was unfailingly polite and professional. It was a privilege to know him and to read his tightly written opinions. He made an enormous contribution to Chattanooga and to Tennessee.”

Anderson began a 70-year career at the Chattanooga Free Press at age 16 when World War II had decimated the newsroom’s staff. Over the years he wrote feature stories and worked every news beat — from police to business to courts — before covering the Tennessee Legislature and politics at all levels of government, including five national presidential conventions.

Though he was named editor in April 1958, Anderson had been writing many of the editorials since 1948. In addition to being the editorial voice of the newspaper, he was, in effect, the managing editor, directing news coverage for decades through a cadre of departmental editors.