Academy of Country Music executive Lisa Lee has died at age 52, the organization shared on Monday, Aug. 23. Lee, Senior Vice President of creative and content for the Academy of Country Music, died at age 52 on Saturday, Aug. 21, from brain cancer.
Lee was born in Arkansas and 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. She began working as a reporter at the Cabot Star-Herald newspaper straight out of school and also worked at KTAL-TV before moving to Nashville to work for Jim Owens and Associates, where she served as a reporter and producer in Nashville from 1995 – 1999. In 2000, she moved to CMT and CMT.com as a news correspondent and producer before heading to Los Angeles in 2004 to become the Hollywood-based correspondent and West Coast News Bureau Chief for CMT Insider.
Three years later, she joined the Academy of Country Music to help the Academy establish and grow their own in-house creative and video production department as lead staff producer. Lee was named producer of the Academy of Country Music Honors, and in 2014, she wrote and created the coffee table book This Is Country: A Backstage Pass to the Academy of Country Music Awards. She is survived by her parents, Charlie and Faye Young; her husband (and high school sweetheart) Doug Lee; daughter Grayson, and son Jackson.
A number of country stars shared messages in memory of Lee, including Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire, Keith Urban and Trisha Yearwood. "Lisa has always been a light inside our industry," Bryan shared in a statement. "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."
Chesney said, "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." McEntire added, "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."
"We lost one of our true lights yesterday," Urban said. "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."
Yearwood shared, "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."