Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Former Universal Press Syndicate President Lee Salem Dies

Lee Salem, 73, of Leawood, KS, passed away on September 2, 2019.

He was born on July 21, 1946, and lived his early years in Boston, Mass., before moving to Portsmouth, NH. 

Lee moved to the Kansas City area to attend and ultimately graduate from Park College, where he met the love of his life, his wife Anita Salem. 

He received his master’s degree in English from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Lee served as editor and then president of Universal Press Syndicate, now called Andrews McMeel Syndication. 

In his nearly four decades at Universal, he is credited with editing and developing some of the iconic comic strips of our time, including Calvin and Hobbes, Cathy, Cul-de-Sac, Doonesbury, The Far Side and For Better or for Worse

Lee’s calm demeanor and steadfast defense of cartoonists’ creative rights resulted in close friendships with numerous creators. 

His colleagues at the syndicate benefited from his quiet leadership and integrity. In 2013, he was awarded the Silver T-Square award by the National Cartoonists Society for his contributions to the industry. 

His legacy flourishes through the creative works that he allowed to blossom.

Lee had many interests and a voracious appetite for knowledge. Visiting the local library became a weekly ritual, and he would often read a book each day. 

He had eclectic tastes, and his most recent selection from the library included novels and non-fiction books with varied topics as history, math, education and urban planning. 

He was an avid sports fan, supporting both local teams, along with his hometown’s own Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots (much to the chagrin of his two children). 

His love of music ranged from Beethoven to Bob Dylan, and he was a staunch defender of the Rolling Stones as the “greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world.”

Traveling was a passion for Lee and he was a meticulous planner of his family’s vacations. He was famous for scouting out curious off-the-road attractions and restaurants. His ventures in Europe included living for brief stints in both Florence and Barcelona with Anita.

A creature of habit, Lee was well known in his neighborhood for walking his two dogs, Rosie and Bear. He was a kind soul and friend to many, and he never shied away from someone in need. 

Family and friends, both old and new, were always cherished. The loss of his soft-spoken wisdom and grace will leave an empty place in many lives.

The primary focus of Lee’s life was his commitment to his wife, children and grandchildren. He took great joy in attending his grandchildren’s events, including sports, dance, music and theater. He shared his passion for reading, competitive game-playing, music, puzzles and movies with his family.

Lee 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; five grandchildren, Julia, Andrew, Hadley, Allison and William; and brother Ed Callahan and wife Kathleen Callahan.

A celebration of life for Lee will be held on September 14, 2019, 10:30 a.m., at Hallbrook Country Club, 2501 W. 111th St., Leawood, KN. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Salvation Army or the Youth Symphony of Kansas City.


"Lee Salem by Cathy Guisewite" on the NCS website.

"Lee Salem, godfather to such classic comic strips as ‘Doonesbury,’ ‘Calvin and Hobbes,’ dies" in The LA Times.


  1. In memory of Lee Salem, a very special person who died yesterday. A man of humor, intelligence, compassion. A man of many friends who will be greatly missed. He never herded cats or cartoonists.

  2. I, unfortunately, only had a brief encounter with the man.