Marshall Lincoln Lee was born February 12, 1921 in Brooklyn, NY. His father, Jack Lee, was born 1887 in Russia and came to America in 1895. His mother, Ruth Lee, was born in 1897 in NYC of Polish ancestry. His parents married in 1916 and had two children. His older sister Doris Lee was born in 1918. They lived at 350 Fort Washington Avenue in the Washington Heights section of uppermost Manhattan. His father owned and operated an automobile garage.
As the family grew prosperous they moved to 117 Glover Avenue in Yonkers. NY, a suburb just north of the Bronx.
On November 16, 1929 his father died at the age of forty-three. His mother supported the family by working as a stenographer at a newspaper.
He had a natural talent for drawing and became interested in a career as a commercial artist while working in the newspaper pressroom during summer vacations.
IN June of 1936 he graduated from Yonkers High School.
In September of 1936 he began to attend the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He studied illustration with Nicholas Reilly and H. Winfield Scott. Two of his fellow classmates were Sam Savitts and Attilio Sinagra. During his senior year he was elected Class Vice president.
In June of 1939 he graduated from Pratt. He moved to 50 Commerce Street in Lower Manhattan and began to work as a free-lance commercial artist.
His illustrations appeared in Red Mask Detective Stories, Five Novels Monthly, Clues Detective Stories, The Lone Eagle, The Avenger, Jungle Stories, Two-Complete Detective Books, Ten Detective Aces, Baseball Stories, and Action Stories.
During WWII he enlisted in the U. S. Coast Guard Reserve. Several other artists also served in this branch of the military during WWII, such as Herman Vestal, Rafael Astarita, John Falter, and Frederick Blakeslee, as well as the pulp magazine publisher Harry Steeger.
He was promoted to Lieutenant and was made Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. LCI(L)-96, which stands for Landing Craft, Infantry (Large). His ship participated in the North African occupation in Tunisia and afterwards landed troops at Salerno during the invasion of Sicily.
In January 1944 they were stationed in England in preparation for D-Day. Many large British manor homes were requisitioned by the military for the duration, and he was among several officers billeted at the country estate of Agatha Christie near the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. Lt. M. Lincoln Lee painted a decorative mural in the library, which served as a recreation room. His mural depicted the worldwide exploits of his ship, the U.S.S. LCI(L)-96. When the famous mystery author finally returned the Admiralty apologized for the mural and offered to paint it over, but Agatha Christie said, "No, it's a piece of history. I would like to keep it." She spent nearly every summer at the home for the rest of her life.
On June 6, 1944 the U.S.S. LCI(L)-96 participated in the Normandy Invasion at Utah Beach. After D-Day he became Harbor Master at the Port of Cherbourg, and then went to SHAEF HQ in Frankfurt-am-Main.
After his honorable discharge in 1946 he became the U.S. Director of Inter-Allied Cultural Relations in Europe.
In 1948 he returned to New York City and resumed his career in publishing. He became an award-winning book designer. He lived at 219 East 69th Street in the affluent Upper East Side of Manhattan.
By 1952 he was a college professor teaching book design at New York University.
In 1965 Doubleday published his reference work, Bookmaking - Editing, Designing, and Production, which became a standard textbook on the subject.
In the 1970s he became Vice President of Harry N. Abrams Art Books Inc. He moved to 25 Church Street in Schuylerville, NY.
In 2000 the U.K. National Trust restored Agatha Christie's manor house, including the library mural of the U.S.S. LCI(L)-96 by Lt. Lee. British art conservators contacted the artist for consultation and The Daily Mail reported, "he was extremely delighted to learn his mural had survived over the years and been preserved, so it will be there for future generations to see."
Marshall Lee died at the age of eighty-nine on April 21, 2010 in Schuylersviller, NY.
© David Saunders 2013