Walls was the son of Carmage and Odessa Lee Dobbs Walls of Orlando, but moved with his family to Macon, Georgia and then to Gadsden where his father worked as a newspaper publisher. After graduating from Gadsden schools, he attended Marion Military Institute and earned a bachelor's degree in management from the University of Alabama in 1956.
He served two years in the U.S. Air Force in Saudi Arabia before taking over the Cleveland (Tennessee) Daily Banner. He began buying other small and medium-sized newspapers, establishing a nine-state media conglomerate that moved from Tennessee to Houston, Texas before relocating to Birmingham in 1986. He had two children with his first wife, Sarah, whom he met at the University of Alabama.
- "Lee Walls, Sr (1934-2013)" obituary (December 10, 2013) The Birmingham News
- "Alabama newspaper owner Carmage Lee Walls Sr. dies" (December 11, 2013) Associated Press