Henry Lee, 82, legendary New York Daily News rewrite man whose snappy, lucid prose illuminated most of the major stories of half a century, died Friday of cancer in Sudbury, Mass. Born in Bridgeport, Conn., Mr. Lee started his writing career as editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper. From that point on, and except for the years he attended Harvard University (Class of '34), he was writing for newsprint -- he worked for the Bridgeport Times-Star, the Bridgeport Post, the New York World-Telegram and, from 1946 to 1979, The Daily News. He was the unquestioned dean of The News' rewrite battery when it had a dozen desks, back in the days when reporters in fedoras really did call in from the scene of the crime and tell the switchboard operator, "Hiya Sweetheart, gimme rewrite." When called upon -- as he invariably was when The Big One came in -- the white-haired, suspendered rewrite man would put on his telephone headset, ratchet a piece of copy paper into his old Royal, adjust his spectacles on the end of his nose and start typing. In record time, the story would be done -- handed to the city editor in neatly folded takes, flawless copy with no strikeouts. In addition to frequent magazine articles, he also wrote two books, "The Right Burgee," a novel, and "How Dry We Were," a history of Prohibition. In all of it, his writing was the very model of tabloid prose. And Mr. Lee did it all he did wars, arson, murder, mayhem, mayors, mobsters, lust and lost kids.
THE BALTIMORE SUN