A former publisher of the Cleveland Daily Banner, Walls founded Walls Newspapers Consultants, a corporation headquartered in Birmingham since 1986. The newspaper group, which owned daily publications in nine states, had previously operated in Houston, Texas, and in Cleveland.
Walls is remembered by many friends, as well as former co-workers and employees in Cleveland.
One is Sandra M. Rowland, the wife of Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland. Before leaving the newspaper industry, she held a variety of positions and roles with the Banner, including Lifestyles editor and later managing editor.
“I named my daughter, Carmen Lea, after Lee Walls in 1968,” Cleveland’s first lady reminisced. “He was a big influence on me. My chosen field was medical technology in college and he hired me as a summer typist, moved me to the newsroom and chose me to field test the first computers in the world for the newspaper industry.”
Rowland said over the next two years she field tested, trained in Boston, put the computer system into use and trained the newspaper staff to use it.
“... The rest is a 22-year history,” she offered.
The former newspaper veteran recalled how Walls trained her to write news and develop stories.
“Lee Walls gave me my first news assignment to cover, at the Courthouse,” Rowland remembered. “He walked me to the Courthouse and as we walked, he told me, ‘The main thing to remember is you are covering this meeting so the average person, like the man who is at work during the daytime on the line at Magic Chef for example, can come home, read the Banner and know exactly what happened in the meeting.’”
Rowland pointed out Walls was a stickler for reporting only the facts.
“‘... Not your opinion, or your perspective, but just what happened,’” Rowland recalls Walls telling her.
Of her former employer, Rowland stressed, “He was a great man indeed.”
[Mayor] Rowland remembers Walls as being a community advocate who served various causes including Community Chest (now United Way of Bradley County), the American Red Cross and the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, among others.
“In the early years, he was a strong proponent of our need for a safer and expanded airport in Cleveland,” Rowland said. “It was a privilege for me, just a year ago, to communicate with him about our new Cleveland Regional Jetport. He sent me a note letting me know how pleased he was to see it become a reality.”
Rowland said the former newspaper publisher “... made a difference in our quality of life.”
The mayor added, “Lee Walls set the standard for the Cleveland Daily Banner to be an integral part of all aspects of our community and it continues in that tradition. I am proud to have known him.”
Another longtime area resident and former Cleveland Daily Banner editor who recalls Walls’ impact on his life is Beecher Hunter, president of Life Care Centers of America.
“Lee Walls was a wonderful human being and a good newspaperman,” Hunter said. “He is the reason Lola and I moved to Cleveland.”
The Life Care executive remembers his first direct contact with Walls.
“I was working at the Herald-Citizen in Cookeville when Lee called and invited me over for an interview and a possible position with the Banner,” Hunter reminisced. “I was impressed with what I heard and saw in him, so I accepted the job.”
He added, “Lee helped shape my journalism career, and I am forever indebted for his positive impact on me. Cleveland and Bradley County have lost someone who cared deeply about us, even after he moved away.”
A complete obituary can be found on Page 2 of today’s edition.
“Lee helped shape my journalism career, and I am forever indebted for his positive impact on me. Cleveland and Bradley County have lost someone who cared deeply about us, even after he moved away.” — Beecher Hunter