65-year veteran newspaperman Billy Carr dies

The Lebanon Democrat suffered a stunning loss Tuesday with the death of 65-year veteran newspaperman Billy Carr. Carr was a mainstay at The Lebanon Democrat, drifting through the newsroom every morning delivering mail and the latest gossip from "the restaurant," where he discussed the news...
Mar 19, 2013
Billy Carr  Photo: Democrat File Photo

Billy Carr shares a laugh with staff at The Democrat's 2012 Christmas party, where he was honored for 65 years of service to the newspaper.

 

The Lebanon Democrat suffered a stunning loss Tuesday with the death of 65-year veteran newspaperman Billy Carr.

Carr was a mainstay at The Lebanon Democrat, drifting through the newsroom every morning delivering mail and the latest gossip from "the restaurant," where he discussed the news of the day with his friends.

The Lebanon Democrat suffered a stunning loss Tuesday with the death of 65-year veteran newspaperman Billy Carr.
Carr was a mainstay at The Lebanon Democrat, drifting through the newsroom every morning delivering mail and the latest gossip from "the restaurant," where he discussed the news of the day with his friends.
While editors and reporters came and went at the paper, for 65 years, Carr was the one constant. He began his career at The Democrat in 1947 as a fresh-faced student at Lebanon High School. When he was 17, Carr's uncle and then-owner Howard Kirby offered him a job in the mailroom.
"When I first started here, my uncle hired me and gave me the key to the building," Carr said in an previous interview. "He said, 'we can depend on him.' He was right."
At the time, the paper was printed on a "flat bed press" four pages at a time – a far cry from today's computer layout. Carr said he was content with his job until something happened in 1950 that changed his life.
"Then I got a letter from Harry Truman," he said. "I had to report for service."
In a wink, Carr found himself in basic training, in Wisconsin of all places – a cold spot for a Tennessee boy.
"I said 'this ain't right,'" he said.
He and his unit were sent on several special assignments, but he lucked out and was transferred to another unit before his original unit was sent to Korea, where it won a Presidential Citation.
"I never had to go," he said, adding he spent two years on active duty and five more in the reserves. "I was lucky; I could have been called back for Vietnam, but I wasn't."
Above Carr's desk, his honorable discharge papers hang framed on the wall at The Democrat. In 1945, Capt. Dan B. Wilson wrote, "A good soldier – dependable, faithful and loyal," on those papers.
"Nothing has really changed," said Joseph H. Adams, vice-president and publisher of Lebanon Publishing, Inc. "Billy was the mayor of The Lebanon Democrat, and this is the first unexcused day of his career. We already miss him."
At the time Carr was discharged from service, employers didn't need a law to make them do the right thing, and The Lebanon Democrat was no exception.
"They said 'Billy, if you make it back, you've got a job,'" he said, adding he was back in Lebanon by December 1952.
"I was doing everything," he recalled. "They even let me write some headlines. I spent most of my life at the paper from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and if something happened, I'd be here even longer. Since then, I've seen so many changes at the paper."
Throughout the years, Carr saw it all – from the moon landings, the Kennedy assassination and Watergate to local politics and scandals.
"Once a man said he was going to beat up the ace reporter," he said. "I said 'no he's not,' and I got a stick."
Carr was known for his irreverent sense of humor and the sly smile usually on his face. Every morning he would come into the newsroom just bursting with news and gossip and poking fun at local politicians. It was suggested he write a column called "news from the restaurant," but he preferred to be the provocateur behind the scenes.
Until the day he died, Carr was on the job and spreading smiles throughout the office as only he could. He was at work Monday.
Polly Reynolds worked with Carr for 32 years until her retirement from The Democrat last year.
"Don't ask me," she said with a laugh. "You don't want to know."
But she did share some memories of her longtime co-worker.
"He liked to flirt with the girls," Reynolds said. "We used to go dancing at Cumberland; He was very gentlemanly. He was just a good person. He was like a brother to me. We argued all the time."
Democrat production manager Mark Rodgers said Carr was the first person who befriended him when Rodgers started working for the newspaper about 15 years ago.
"I was pretty overwhelmed at the time," Rodgers said. "He had me cracking up every day."
While Carr liked to joke about his time in the Army, he did excel in uniform, rising to the rank of sargeant major.
Reired Lt. Col. Jim Henderson is active in Lebanon's veteran's affairs. He said his wife is Carr's third cousin.
"He was a great friend, and I counted on him for a lot of things," Hendeson said.
Sellars Funeral Home in Lebanon is in charge of arrangements, which are expected Wednesday.

 

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