Vice President, Marketing
Andrews McMeel Universal
Kansas City, MO (September 3, 2019) – Lee Salem, longtime friend, beloved editor and former president of Andrews McMeel Syndication, passed away September 2 after suffering a severe stroke on August 19, 2019, announced Andrews McMeel Universal (AMU) Chairman Emeritus John McMeel and AMU Chairman Hugh Andrews.
“Lee was respected and revered by associates, creators and representatives throughout the media industry,” said McMeel. “His contributions have been immeasurable. Over four decades, he was instrumental in discovering and nurturing relationships with creators as trusted editor, sound adviser, valued friend and insightful champion to extraordinary talents such as Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes), Cathy Guisewite (Cathy), Gary Larson (The Far Side), Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse), Bill Amend (FoxTrot) and many others.”
“The impact that Lee had on the lives of our creators and associates cannot be underestimated,” said Andrews. “A skilled negotiator, his ability to simultaneously advance the best interests of creators and AMU is unparalleled. It is hard to imagine AMS without Lee’s fundamental involvement; his legacy lives on through entertaining millions of people around the world with the work of our creators.”
“Working with Lee, you never felt like you were being edited,” said Trudeau. “He was more like a Good Samaritan who, for no reason at all, had stopped to help you do better work, or, in my case, keep you from embarrassing yourself. And in times of trouble, he turned into a human firewall, taking all incoming from irate clients in stride, talking them down with that calm, reasonable voice of his. Lee made wildly insecure artists feel supported and safe and empowered to take creative risks. He will be missed terribly by all of us.”
“I respected and admired Lee tremendously,” said Watterson. “It goes without saying that he had an enormous impact on my life. I’m grateful for the years we worked together and honestly, I could not have asked for a better editor.
“Lee had a sharp eye and he understood writers. He found cartoonists with strong, quirky, inimitable voices and brought a new type of humor to the comics pages. More than that, he stood up for creators as they pushed boundaries, and his calm, unflappable personality made him an ideal firewall. This deep support made my work possible.
“Lee’s passing really seems to mark the end of an era. The media landscape has changed irrevocably, and I think it’s fair to say that Lee’s tenure at Universal created the final flourishing of American newspaper comics. I think of Lee often and will truly miss him.”
“Lee gave so many of us a chance to say things that had never been said on the comic pages, through the kind of characters that had never been seen,” said Guisewite. “He saw big possibility in little scribbles, gently guided us, and was an absolute rock behind us. He gave us time to find our voices and earn our space. I will be grateful to Lee forever for the chance he gave me, for the inspirational role model he was and for his belief in me that was matched only by that of my mother.”
Lee’s intelligence, graciousness and patient demeanor are legendary. His welcoming spirit, inherent kindness and wry wit warmed any gathering. He calmed creator nerves, ran interference with newspaper editors, and ignited sales with an enthusiasm for and advocacy of the work of AMU creators.
Prior to his retirement in 2014, Lee was honored by the National Cartoonists Society with the “Silver T-Square Award,” which is bestowed by unanimous vote of the NCS Board of Directors to persons who have demonstrated outstanding dedication or service to the society or the profession of cartooning.
A native of New Hampshire, Lee joined Universal Press Syndicate (later AMS) as assistant editor in 1974 after receiving his B.A. in English from Park University and an M.A. in English from the University of Missouri Kansas City in 1972. He was named vice president and editorial director in 1981, became president of UPS in 2006, and remained in that role until his retirement in 2014.
Although he enjoyed many distinguished accomplishments, he delighted in his family above all. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Anita; daughter Laura Salem and son-in-law Rob Schnittker; son Matt Salem and daughter-in-law Elizabeth Salem; and his five grandchildren, Julia, Andrew, Hadley, Allison and William.