Associate publisher Lee Anderson to retire after 70 years at the Chattanooga Times Free Press

photo Lee S. Anderson, associate publisher and editor of the Chattanooga Free Press opinion page, will retire on April 18 after 70 years with the Times Free Press.

Lee S. Anderson, associate publisher and editor of the Chattanooga Free Press opinion page, will retire on April 18 after 70 years with the Times Free Press.

The 86-year-old Anderson called his career "fortunate, delightful, enjoyable and busy. I wouldn't change a thing."

His career started in the era of manual typewriters and newsboys yelling "Extra!" on the corner and is coming to a close in the days of high-tech computers and a 24/7 news cycle on the Internet.

"What has not changed, however, is the newspaper's vital role in its community -- and Lee never lost sight of that critical mission," observed Edward VanHorn, executive director of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, a trade group that was founded in 1903 and formerly based in Chattanooga that since has moved to Atlanta.

Walter E. Hussman Jr., publisher and chairman of the Times Free Press, said Anderson's dedication, loyalty, work ethic and passion for newspapers have been an inspiration.

"Lee is one of a kind, a unique person," he said.

Jason Taylor, president and general manager of the Times Free Press, called Anderson's career "nothing short of legendary."

"Lee's dedication and passion toward this newspaper and Chattanooga are an inspiration to so many," he said. "We look forward to the weeks ahead as we help lead the community in celebrating Lee's storied career."

At age 16, Anderson was hired at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on April 18, 1942, by then-Editor W.G. Foster.

"They surprised me and hired me," Anderson recalled. "I said, 'When do you want me to come to work?' They said, 'Immediately.'"

He has noted many times that, with so many American men being drafted for service in World War II, there were few available for such jobs in the States, opening the way for him to work at the paper when he wasn't in school.

Anderson graduated from Chattanooga High School in 1943 and enrolled in the University of Chattanooga. He volunteered for the Air Force aviation cadet program at age 17 and served 21 months on active duty.

He returned to the newspaper in late 1945, coming in at 6 a.m. before heading to the University of Chattanooga, where he attended classes until 9:30 p.m. He graduated in three years in 1948.

At the Chattanooga News-Free Press, Anderson tackled a wide range of assignments before being named associate editor in 1948, then editor in 1958. In 1990 he added the title of publisher to his role as editor.

Anderson's leadership at the News-Free Press continued after the paper's acquisition in 1998 by WEHCO Media, the Little Rock, Ark.-based company headed by Hussman that also owns the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. WEHCO also subsequently bought The Chattanooga Times.

On Jan. 5, 1999, WEHCO merged the two Chattanooga newspapers into one publication, now known as the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Times Free Press has continued the tradition of offering two editorial perspectives by publishing two opinion pages each day. Anderson has headed the Free Press editorial page.

The separate editorial pages have been a hallmark of the merged paper, Hussman said.

"That's been a great plus for Chattanooga," he said, adding that the paper plans to continue its commitment to provide both conservative and liberal perspectives.

During his newspaper career, Anderson also has had other business interests, including as co-owner of a tourist attraction known as the Confederama, which offered visitors a presentation of the Civil War battles in the Chattanooga area.

He also has been a leader in community endeavors, serving as chairman of the United Way campaign, president of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau and chairman of the local chapter of the American Red Cross. He also has been an active Rotarian, serving as president of the Chattanooga Downtown Rotary Club.

His leadership has continued at First Presbyterian Church, where for years he led a large Sunday school class and served as an elder.

Anderson's editorials over the years have received key awards for their conservative philosophy, including a number of Freedoms Foundation awards.

In 1950, Anderson married Elizabeth Williams "Betsy" McDonald, a daughter of Chattanooga News-Free Press founder and publisher Roy McDonald.

The Andersons have two daughters, Corrine Elizabeth Adams and Mary Stewart Anderson, both of Atlanta, and they have two grandchildren.