Former Hamilton County Executive Dalton Roberts
“Lee Anderson is a true lover of Chattanooga and every Chattanoogan of any political or religious leaning who wants to have a true friend and is willing to look past differences and see affinities. Thus saith one poor old Watering Trough democrat who likes and appreciates him.”
Linda Weaver, Lee’s secretary for 32 years
“Mr. Anderson is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. A true Christian man. Encouraging. Humble. Concerned. Interested in you. I never regretted a moment of being here, working for him. He loved coming to work, which made me love coming to work.”
In the nearly 54 years since Lee Anderson became editor of the Chattanooga News-Free Press, the country has fought in wars, endured the Cold War and its aftermath, pushed through the civil rights struggle, seen the assassination of a president and close calls on two others, and weathered a terrorist attack.
Through it all, Anderson has been “a hard charger, full of enthusiasm” and “a good newsman,” said Walter E. Hussman Jr., chairman of the board of the Times Free Press.
Anderson himself recalled several of the country’s most intriguing moments during his tenure as editor of the Chattanooga News-Free Press, which later became the Chattanooga Free Press:
* The Cold War: “It was a very tense thing. We didn’t believe in any compromise whatsoever with the Soviet Union. ... We were not trying to overthrow the Soviet Union. [We were concerned] with aggression throughout Europe and throughout Asia. But it was a very tense time.”
* Assassination of President John F. Kennedy: “We replated [the paper to get the news out the same day it happened]. We tried to get out at 2 o’clock every afternoon. I remember going up to the composing room and directing the replating of page one with the streamer [headline] on it about the assassination.”
Anderson said he already was scheduled to speak to the typographical union that evening (Nov. 22, 1963) at Wimberly Inn (a then-restaurant on Brainerd Road). After the assassination, he went home and researched the country’s history of assassinations and presented his talk that evening.
“It was a peculiar time because it was a festive banquet dinner. I was speaking on one of the darkest days in the history of the nation [after] the assassination of the president.”
* Segregation: “We believed in states’ rights. We didn’t believe in denying anyone any rights but believed in individual choice. The Free Press policy at that time was to have whatever schools people wanted to attend — that they could attend segregated schools or integrated schools. We had a three-school policy that you could go to a black school, a white school or an integrated school. [Each person] could choose his own school, and I believe that we were the only paper in the country that had that sort of policy. We didn’t believe in imposing upon anyone [but] in letting each one choose — black, white or integrated.”
* Vietnam War: “We supported the war very strongly. ... We were for no pulling [of] punches. We said we’re in a war, [and] when you’re in war, you go all out. So we were for no limit on what we would do. When you’re in war, you try to win it and get out as quickly as possibly victoriously. But it dragged on and on and on because [there were] very bad policies they had at that time. I remember visiting in Vietnam at that period when Vietnam was divided. It was a scary time. South Vietnam was barely holding on. It was a terrible feeling to see that that was the situation.”
* Panama Canal Treaty: “We didn’t see that there was any reason for the United States, which had built the Panama Canal, in an isthmus that was granted to the United States at a time of a revolution down there, [to sign a treaty ceding the canal to Panama]. We didn’t see any reason for the Panama Canal, which we built and which we operated, should not continue [under U.S. leadership]. We built it, we owned it, we should operate it.”
* Election of Ronald Reagan: “I grew up as a conservative Southerner. The left wing switch of the Democrat Party [to being less conservative] was quite a contrast to that. I remember Ronald Reagan as a movie actor. And I was very much surprised [at Reagan’s rise], but he enunciated his policies very well. I remember he came to Chattanooga, and I met him at the airport and rode with him into Chattanooga, where he made a speech. Later, he invited me to the White House for a dinner. There were several occasions where I met with him. I liked him very much, and he had very conservative views, and I did, too. I was a strong admirer of President Reagan and [went] to the convention where he was nominated.”
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...