Lee Lawrence (1923-2003) was an American television researcher and associate producer long affiliated with Dave Garroway and his various NBC-TV programs.
Born Lee Kalech in Atlanta, GA on July 25, 1923, to a traveling salesman father and stay-at-home mom, Ms. Lawrence's family moved often during her childhood, living for a time in Atlanta, Chicago, Kentucky, Nashville, Buffalo and Cleveland, Ohio.
With a strong and early interest in the theatre, Lee departed for New York City before her 20th birthday. Once there, she enrolled in Columbia University and took several drama courses, each of them taught by Milton Smith.
Described as "vivacious and smiling," Ms. Lawrence quickly found herself at the epicenter of the New York entertainment world when she was hired, around 1943, to be the "technical assistant" to Broadway producer Billy Rose.
After many years in Rose's employ, Lee eventually went to work for various other producers and theatre companies, then founded her own theatrical services agency. Ms. Lawrence would also marry, founding with her husband, Bert Lawrence, a company that produced both plays and films for a variety of clients including the National Association of Manufacturers, the Milk Industry Foundation, and the New York Life Insurance Company, among others. Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence had two sons; they divorced in the late 1950s.
In 1958, Lawrence joined the NBC television network and formed a long, fruitful partnership with on-air TV legend Dave Garroway, the low-key host of the network's "Today" show.
Lawrence, who was once described by Garroway as the "world's best researcher," worked on the "Today" show for five years which required rising five days a week at 3:30 a.m. to get to the studio by four to get the program on the air by seven. At 9:00 a.m., when the show was over, Lawrence would then begin work on the next day's broadcast--lining up guests, tracking down feature ideas and typing up teletypes. Lawrence was also an integral part of Garroway's ambitious weekend program, "Wide Wide World."
In October 1961, Ms. Lawrence experienced a violent incident which left her in a coma for six months. After awakening, she was forced to endure various surgeries (including the amputation of one leg) and thousands of hours of physical therapy.
Eventually able to walk again, Ms. Lawrence relocated to the Washington, DC area and devote much of her later life to the National Organization on Disability for which she would serve as information officer. For a time she also did contract work for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as well as for the White House. Ms. Lawrence utlized her energies on behalf of the environment, including contributing to the website Earthsite.org.
Ms. Lawrence died in the Potomac Valley Nursing and Wellness Center in Rockville, Maryland on August 26, 2003. Lee was preceded in death by her second husband, T. Peter Ansberry, whom she married in 1967. He died in 1982.
Lee Lawrence Ansberry is survived by her two sons, John (Jeremy) Lawrence, an actor, and Stephen Lawrence, a social worker.