From Lee’s Wikipedia page:

Harvey Leroy “Lee” Atwater (February 27, 1951 – March 29, 1991) was a political consultant and strategist to the Republican party in the United States. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated from Newberry College, a small private Lutheran institution in Newberry, South Carolina.

Atwater was a trusted advisor of U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. He was also a political mentor and close friend of Karl Rove. Atwater invented or improved upon many of the techniques of modern electoral politics, including promulgating reputation-destroying rumors.

Atwater was also a musician. He briefly played backup guitar for Percy Sledge during the 1960s and frequently played with bluesmen such as B.B. King. Atwater recorded an album with King and others on Curb Records in 1990 entitled Red Hot & Blue[2]. His life is the subject of the feature-length documentary film Boogie Man.[3] More here.

Here’s the granddaddy of all Atwater articles, the one that got Lee in deep doo-doo with the First Lady herself. David Remnick’s Esquire profile Why Is Lee Atwater So Hungry?

Outside in the twilight, Atwater walks to his car, which is parked near a tiny park, a vernal traffic island. A few men are asleep on benches. The stores are closed. Atwater doesn’t want to go home just yet. He starts talking politics again, talking Bush and “the continuation of the Reagan Revolution,” talking a half-dozen congressional races no one gives a damn about, talking about all the little details “that are drivin’ me up a wall.”

“I’m tellin’ you,” he says, kicking up little dust clouds. “This here’s a young man’s game. This is stress, high motherfuckin’ stress. When you’re working with the frontrunner you’re gonna get shot no matter what you do.”

Maureen Dowd remembers hanging out with Lee in this 1993 article.

Amid all the bland, sober pols here, he was electric, consumed with the politics of politics. There was a gruesome fascination in watching someone with a sense of morality large enough, as Raymond Chandler might put it, to make a parakeet’s suspenders. He was like a teen-ager who had never been told no. Healthy and cocky, he was an icon for a time when Republicans seemed invincible. Dying and frightened, he was a symbol of whether winning at all costs was worth it.

Having lied and schemed his whole short life to make himself into a mythic figure — the king of the hoods — Atwater would be tickled to know that, nearly three years after he died of a brain tumor at 40, his cult is bigger than ever.

From SC writer Roddie Burriss’ syndicated column:

In the final days of his 1980 campaign for Congress, Columbia attorney Tom Turnipseed had a firm lead in the polls in his race against Lexington County’s Floyd Spence.

On election night, Turnipseed’s campaign workers were exuberant. Poll numbers showed their man was headed for a likely upset victory.

“I asked them, ‘Have the Lexington County results come in yet?’” Turnipseed recalled. “When the reply came back, ‘No,’ I told them, ‘Well, don’t get too excited.’” Hard-nosed Republican political operative Lee Atwater had conducted a push poll in Lexington County in which he asked voters how they would feel knowing their (prospective) congressman held a lifetime membership in the NAACP.

Spence won re-election that night with 54 percent of the vote, though Turnipseed, who is white, carried every county in the 2nd Congressional District except Lexington, Spence’s home county.

“Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story,” the independent film documentary of Atwater’s life, and his dominant role in shaping the national Republican Party, is now opening in theaters…

Here’s the classic article by Boogie Man interviewee Eric Alterman from the NY Times:

IT’S 2 A.M. ON A SULTRY SATURDAY IN COLUMBIA, S. C. Does the Republican Party know where its chairman is? Harvey Lee Atwater, hometown boy, is on stage at Bullwinkle’s, a smoky dive with two pool tables, dollar beers and the raunchy, long-haired Mojo Blues band shaking the rafters.The overflow crowd is packed against the wall, forcing overdressed Republican gentry to rub elbows with the Bullwinkle regulars. Atwater has changed out of his blue blazer and tie into a ”Late Night” T-shirt that David Letterman gave him. His guitar was a gift from Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones - a souvenir of Atwater’s gala blues celebration at a Presidential inaugural ball…

”Animal House” was not a movie for Lee Atwater; it was autobiography. Atwater was known in his own fraternity as the guy who stayed up singing and dancing until dawn and then ”woke up the day shift with a flip-top at 6.” Though he’s now a married man with two daughters and no longer drinks much, he’s still the kind of guy who will jump up to grab a pretty woman in a restaurant and sit her down at his table because a guest has noticed her looks…

Walking around the St. Patrick’s Day fair with Lee Atwater in 1989 is a little like cruising the Grand Concourse in the Bronx with Joe Dimaggio in 1941…

Imagine, if you will, a guitar-wielding synthesis of Huck Finn and Machiavelli…

From Alexander Lamis’s interview, by way of David Broder:

Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that [President Ronald] Reagan does get to the [George] Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with Legal Services, by cutting down on food stamps…”

Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites…obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Forwarded on to us by Lee’s mother, here’s a personal reminiscence from political consultant Robb Austin, including observations about how Lee “paved the way for others to financially prosper in the world of politics”.

Atwater’s Star Still Shines Brightly

For those who were in Washington during the 1980′s it was an experience of a lifetime to be part of the Reagan Revolution, and no one exemplified the excitement and promise of that generation more than my good friend Lee Atwater.

He arrived in Washington from South Carolina and was appointed by Reagan to the Office of Political Affairs. In a few short years he rose to the top of his profession by electing a President of the United States. This week a documentary film was released: “Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story.”

Lee was a star, and he died an untimely death as a result of a brain tumor in March of 1991 at the age of 40. He was to political consulting what Arnold Palmer was to golf – he literally paved the way for others to financially prosper in the world of politics and more than anyone else was responsible for the development of political consulting as a cottage industry.

Today’s consultants are getting rich on book deals, lecture fees, monthly television contracts, year-round campaign fees, the crossover from advising campaigns to advising corporations, and the continuous revolving door practiced by operatives who move easily in and out of high level government positions…

From Dorothy Wickenden in The New Yorker:

The terms of the 2008 Presidential campaign were set twenty years ago—or, more accurately, perhaps, sometime around the fifth century B.C. In 1988, as Lee Atwater, President George H. W. Bush’s young campaign manager, was contemplating how to defeat Michael Dukakis, he consulted “The Art of War,” by Sun Tzu, the well-known ancient Chinese political consultant. Among Sun Tzu’s pithier bullet points: “Know your enemy.”

Atwater conducted a bit of opposition research, identified Dukakis’s vulnerabilities, and gleefully promised to “strip the bark off the little bastard.” The two TV spots that ended Dukakis’s political career followed in due course. One, calculated, in Atwater’s words, to make Willie Horton Dukakis’s “running mate,” featured Horton, a black murderer who raped a white woman after escaping while on furlough from a Massachusetts prison—under a program that Dukakis supported.

The other used footage from an event organized by the Dukakis campaign in an effort to show that he was tough on defense. Waving from a tank in an unfortunate helmet, Dukakis looked, as Atwater put it, like Rocky the Flying Squirrel. Those were the most memorable moments of the Bush-Dukakis campaign, and every Presidential candidate since has absorbed their lesson.