In Memory of Lisa Lee
Lisa Lee, Senior Vice President of creative and content for the Academy of Country Music, died Saturday, August 21st from brain cancer. She was 52.
Born Alicia Faye Young in Cabot, Arkansas, on December 24, 1968, she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Lisa landed a reporting job at the Cabot Star-Herald newspaper straight out of school. A true advocate of the human condition, her reporting throughout her career was grounded by a strong emphasis on the heart of what a story meant to those impacted and those watching.
One of her early jobs was at KTAL-TV, an NBC affiliate serving Texarkana and Shreveport, LA. On her very first assignment, the camera stopped functioning due to high humidity; Lisa and crew “got creative,” drying out the aging piece of equipment with a hair dryer, rather than miss the story because of a technical problem. Although her assignments covered a variety of topics, she made it very clear early on it was entertainment stories that truly interested her. Eventually she convinced station management to allow her to do movie reviews; she promptly constructed her own little critic’s corner set.
If a Country star was appearing anywhere in Arkansas or surrounding states, Lisa would cover the event. Always turning in well-researched, thoughtful interviews, she proved local affiliates can do insightful, quality work.
A regular at Country Music events throughout the region, the always-friendly television journalist began forging meaningful friendships with other members of the media. A friendship with a reporter/producer from Jim Owens and Associates, the Nashville-based production company behind TNN Country News at the time, suggested keeping in touch. Soon she was checking in with the folks at Jim Owens, updating them on all the entertainment pieces she was working on, while not so subtly working to convince them to hire her.
As always, her ambition, talent, and unwillingness to take no for an answer paid off. Hired by Jim Owens and Associates, she served as a reporter and producer in Nashville from 1995 – 1999.
In 2000, Lisa moved to CMT and CMT.com as a news correspondent and producer. Then a part of the MTV Networks group, she not only reported on events across the United States, but also in England, Japan, Canada, and Switzerland.
Always looking to create and expand the social conversation, she also wrote and produced the Prism Award-winning special “Addicted to Addiction,” as well as the TV news specials “Sex in Videos: Where’s the Line” and “Controversy: Tammy Wynette.”
In 2004, Lisa moved to Los Angeles, becoming the Hollywood-based correspondent and West Coast News Bureau Chief for CMT Insider, the network’s interview-driven news show, where she covered music, movies, and television.
In 2007, three years after her move to L.A., Lisa accepted the Academy of Country Music’s offer to draw on her experience as a TV journalist and producer to help the Academy establish and grow their own in-house creative and video production department. As the Academy’s lead staff producer, she oversaw all video production as well as the design, creation, and editing of ACM logos, digital and printed materials including ACM Tempo magazine, the ACM Awards program book, and both the ACM and ACM Lifting Lives websites.
With her long history of production and network teamwork, Lee served as a liaison with CBS television’s creative departments and CBS.com for promos and creative content surrounding the annual ACM Awards. She was named producer of the Academy of Country Music Honors, a live industry event dedicated to celebrating the Academy’s special award honorees, off-camera category winners, and ACM Industry and Studio Recording Awards winners. Held each year at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Lisa imbued the event with a real love for the people who go the extra mile to support, expand, and protect Country Music in its most creative places.
In 2014, Lisa wrote and created This Is Country: A Backstage Pass to the Academy of Country Music Awards. The deeply researched coffee table book celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ACM Awards and included a forward by Reba McEntire.
Co-workers from over the years and around the globe have remained close friends. Each is quick to acknowledge not just the joyous ambitious nature that took her from a small town in Arkansas to graduate school at Northwestern University, to a job as a Los Angeles-based entertainment news correspondent, to a Senior Vice President position at the Academy of Country Music, but also her deeply generous heart. In a tough business, she understood the stakes but also recognized the power of bringing light to everything she did.
Lisa was a member of the Writers Guild of America. She was also a Leadership Music alum. She was a devoted mother, wife and friend; always the first one with a smile, a quick laugh or a kind word on a long day.
Lisa is survived by her parents, Charlie and Faye Young; her husband (and high school sweetheart) Doug Lee; daughter Grayson, and son Jackson. Also, in laws Phillip and Sarah Lee of Cabot and many other Lee family members. She was preceded in death by her grandparents and brothers, Jason Young and Dennis Young. Visitation to be held this Friday from 5-8 pm at Moore's Funeral Home, 700 North Second Street, Cabot, Arkansas followed by a memorial service Saturday.
To stay updated on details for a Celebration of Life to be held in Nashville at a later date, and to support her family by contributing to her memorial fund, please click here.
First Arkansas Bank and Trust
Donations can be made by:
Zelle - [email protected]
Mail - PO Box 827 Jacksonville, AR 72078 Attn: Lisa Lee Memorial Fund
Photo Gallery: HERE
Remembering Lisa Lee:
“Lisa has always been a light inside our industry. Her ability for telling not only my story but the story of so many was unmatched because it was from her heart. She truly loved her job and it showed on her face every time she was around. I will miss her.” – Luke Bryan
“Lisa Lee and I grew up together in this business. She was a TV reporter, producer, writer and big executive. She covered my heroes and my friends, she wrote about me and my mother. She truly cared about country music – and I absolutely cared about her. Good-bye, my sweet friend.” – Kenny Chesney
“I always loved getting to visit with Lisa whether it be about the music business or an interview. She was a huge asset to our business. I sure will miss her smiling face.” – Reba McEntire
“We lost one of our true lights yesterday. Lisa Lee was one of the most passionate and caring people I’ve ever met. Her love and appreciation of music, and the artists who made it, was everything you’d ever want. I loved being interviewed by her for that reason and because she always brought such a warmth into the room. Peace be with all of her family today.” – Keith Urban
“Lisa Lee loved country music, and if you knew her, she LOVED you. We are a better industry because of the love and care she showed in everything she did. I know she always had a smile and kind word for me. She loved life. We all need to take a lesson from the book of Lisa and let kindness and love lead the way.” - Trisha Yearwood
“It is certainly a sad day for Country Music. We have lost a bright light and true leader in our business who cared deeply for telling the story of the music, artists and creators. Our hearts go out to her entire family, especially her husband, Doug and precious children, Grayson and Jackson at this terribly difficult time. We look forward to honoring her in many ways in the future.”- Lori Badgett, ACM Chair & Senior Vice President of City National Bank
“The Academy has lost a huge part of its heart and soul with the passing of Lisa Lee. She was a champion for Country Music and fiercely dedicated to the Academy’s mission for her over 15 years of service to the ACM. She is irreplaceable, but her heart and spirit will live on throughout our industry. ACM Honors was her favorite event, and I know she will be singing along and smiling down on us from above on Wednesday night.” - Damon Whiteside, CEO, Academy of Country Music
“Ever since she joined the Academy, she became the heart, the soul and the historian for the ACM. She was passionate about our West Coast roots and created a magnificent snapshot of the organization and its award show with a coffee table book to celebrate our 50th anniversary. On a personal level, I relied on her to keep me honest when it came to telling the Academy’s story. She had such depth of knowledge and passion. I will miss her tremendously. - RAC Clark, Executive Producer of the ACM Awards, 1999 to present, ACM Board Member and interim Executive Director of the Academy of Country Music 2019
“Lisa Lee was a pioneer, a professional, a partner, an effortless expert… but more than that she was the best human, a loving wife, a proud Mama, a loyal friend, a tireless fighter, a faithful and dedicated Child of God who never hesitated to give everything she had to any of us professionally or personally. Aside from her many accolades and credits, it is her heart and her kindness that leaves behind the most impact. She loved hard. She laughed hard. We are all better to have been in her orbit.” - Jennie Smythe, CEO, Girlilla Marketing
“Lisa was smart, and funny, and a beautiful human being. She was a treasure trove in terms of the history and the importance of country music, and she cared about those traditions and the artists deeply. I don’t know what the Academy is going to do without her. She had a way about her that was smooth, but nurturing. When you do live tv, anything can happen (and usually does); she was a calming influence who could get things done and make people in that setting feel grounded and settled. Whatever was happening, she would make it okay. Lisa could talk to anyone. When we were live on the red carpet, she could talk with everyone from a production assistant to a superstar like Garth Brooks – and make everybody feel welcome and comfortable. She really just wanted to do her job: to tell great stories, and not let the politics get in the way. And she did. Plus, she had a smile that could light up a room. She had me – as the line goes – at hello. I’m going to miss that smile, because I’ve lost a true friend.” - Jack Sussman, Executive Vice President, Specials, Music + Live Events, CBS Entertainment
“Amazing mom, wife and friend. My heart goes out to Doug and the whole family. What a fighter. What a soul. I’ll miss you my friend!” – Storme Warren