Lisa Lee, Academy of Country Music Exec, Passes Away at 52

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Spotify)

Academy of Country Music executive Lisa Lee died Saturday from brain cancer. She was 52.

Lee, who was the Senior Vice President of creative and content, produced ACM Honors each year at the Ryman Auditorium. The Hollywood Reporter said the event celebrates special award honorees and other winners.

In hearing about her death, ACM CEO Damon Whiteside said the academy “has lost a huge part of its heart and soul.” Whiteside said Lee “was a champion for country music and was fiercely dedicated to the Academy’s mission.”

Additionally, Whiteside added Lee was “irreplaceable, but her heart will live on throughout our industry.”

This year’s ACM honors are this Wednesday and will be live-streamed on Circle Network’s social media channels.

“We lost one of our true lights (Saturday). Her love and appreciation of music, and the artists who made it, was everything you’d ever want,” singer Keith Urban.

Lee’s Arkansas Beginnings

Arkansas native Lee was born Alicia Young in Cabot on Dec. 24, 1968. She earned journalism degrees at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and Northwestern University. After college, Lee started as a reporter at her hometown paper, the Cabot Star-Herald. She then moved to NBC affiliate KTAL in Texarkana/Shreveport, La., and gravitated toward entertainment stories, movie reviews, and country music news.

Over time, her country music event work led to more prominent friendships. As a matter of fact, one friendship with Jim Owens and Associates produced a connection with TNN Country News. Soon, Lee was updating the show. By 1995, Jim Owens and Associates hired her as a reporter/producer.

“Lisa has always been a light inside our industry,” singer Luke Bryan said. “I will miss her.” 

By 2000, she worked at CMT and as a correspondent and producer for country news stories nationally and worldwide. However, after a short time, she became the Hollywood-based correspondent and West Coast News Bureau Chief for CMT Insider.

Lee’s Life After Journalism  

In 2007, Lee moved on from TV journalism and accepted an Academy of Country Music job to lead its in-house creative and video production department.

In 2014, Lee wrote a coffee table book “This Is Country: A Backstage Pass to the Academy of Country Music Awards.” What’s more, country music legend Reba McEntire wrote the forward.

“I always loved getting to visit with Lisa, whether it be about the music business or an interview,” McEntire said. “She was a huge asset to our business. I sure will miss her smiling face.” 

Furthermore, Lee was a member of the Writers Guild of America. Moreover, country stars have paid tribute to Lee on social media, as well. 

“Lisa Lee and I grew up together in this business,” country star Kenny Chesney said. “She truly cared about country music – and I absolutely cared about her.” 

Lee is survived by her parents, Charlie and Faye Young; her husband Doug Lee; daughter Grayson, and son Jackson. 

Visitation will be this Friday in Cabot, followed by a memorial service Saturday. Additionally, the family will have a celebration of life event in the future. Click here for details about next week’s services, the celebration of life event and her memorial fund.