CAPE ELIZABETH — Shepard “Shep” Lee, 83, who built his family’s single car dealership into a network of nine locations selling eight brands of new cars, died Wednesday.

Cathy Lee, Shep Lee’s daughter, said her father died at his home with his family at his side.

After serving in the Navy in World War II, Lee graduated from Bowdoin College in 1947 and began selling cars at the family dealership the day after his graduation. That dealership, Advance Auto Sales in Auburn, grew into Lee Auto Malls. Shep Lee’s son, Adam Lee, now runs the dealerships and is the public face of the business in television ads.

Shep Lee was also a leader in the development of the Democratic Party in the state. Democrats were a distinct minority in the late 1940s, but grew to parity with Republicans in the ’50s under the popularity of governor and later Sen. Edmund Muskie, a close friend of Lee’s. Shep Lee was also a member of the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union and a recipient of the ACLU’s highest award, the Roger Baldwin Award.

Lee also served on the boards of the University of Southern Maine’s business and law schools, the Muskie School of Public Service, and the Maine Community College system.

The family said it will hold a private funeral, but will announce plans for a memorial in a few weeks.