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Wallace Carroll, 95; Persuasive Editor, Among Best of His Era

July 30, 2002|JON THURBER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wallace Carroll, the longtime editor and publisher of the Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel, has died. He was 95.

In failing health for several months, Carroll died Sunday at a retirement community in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Carroll, one of the most respected newspaper editors of his era, was the author of an editorial credited with helping persuade President Johnson to pursue peace negotiations in Vietnam.

The editorial in early 1968 carried the headline "Vietnam--Quo Vadis?" ("Vietnam--Where do we go?"). He wrote that while "there is no short and easy road out of Vietnam ... we must now see that we cannot allow Vietnam to become the be-all and end-all of our national policies."

Carroll sent a copy to his friend Dean Acheson, a former secretary of state and close advisor to Johnson. Acheson took it to the White House and watched Johnson read it, and said that Carroll's views also reflected his own. The editorial also clearly reflected declining public support for Johnson's policies.

Within two weeks, Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection and that he would seek peace with North Vietnam.

The Washington Post would later comment that Carroll's "eloquent argument" changed Acheson's views and, subsequently, U.S. policy.

Born in Milwaukee, Carroll began his journalism career with United Press after he graduated from Marquette University.

Sent to London by United Press in the late 1920s, he spent much of the next decade covering the major events in Europe, the hunger marches brought about by the worldwide depression, the rise of fascism and the Spanish Civil War.

He reported from London in the early days of the war and from the Russian front in 1941.

After the U.S. entered the war, Carroll returned to London to run the U.S. Office of War Information and also was an advisor to Supreme Allied Cmdr. Dwight D. Eisenhower on psychological warfare.

In his memoir "Deadline," James Reston, longtime columnist and Washington bureau chief of the New York Times who knew Carroll in Europe, noted that the propaganda section had a significant role in deceiving the Nazis into believing an invasion of Europe was imminent while Eisenhower was actually preparing a landing in North Africa.

Carroll detailed his wartime activities in his book "Persuade or Perish," published in 1948.

A year later, he went to Winston-Salem as the executive editor of the Journal and Sentinel.

Tom Wicker, who worked for Carroll at Winston-Salem years before he would become a leading reporter and columnist for the New York Times, said Carroll had exacting standards.

"I was working on the desk as a copy editor," Wicker recalled, "and I wrote two headlines with grammatical errors and they appeared on the same page. Carroll had pinned those headlines on the bulletin board the next day with a note that read, 'These are the last headlines of this kind that will appear in the Winston-Salem Journal.' And they never did again."

In 1955, Carroll left Winston-Salem to take a post as news editor in the Washington bureau of the New York Times under Reston.

In his memoir, Reston wrote that "Carroll could have edited Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and improved it."

Reston also noted that "Carroll ... had a way of getting his reporters to write leads that combined the professional with the personal. He and Allen Drury ... once combined on a lead paragraph still remembered: 'Arthur Miller revealed to a congressional committee today a past filled with Communist connections and a future filled with Marilyn Monroe.' "

Alvin Shuster, a former foreign editor and now the senior consulting editor at the Los Angeles Times, worked as deputy editor to Carroll in the New York Times' Washington bureau for several years.

"Wally was one of the best and nicest editors in the business," Shuster said Monday.

"He had intelligence, common sense, great contacts everywhere and a wit that no one could match. It took all of his skills and humor to manage a staff of immense talent and to stand between that staff and an often demanding New York office."

Carroll left the New York Times in 1963 to return to Winston-Salem as publisher of the Journal and Sentinel.

He oversaw the paper's steady growth and, on the editorial side, used the paper as an instrument of change, advocating busing to integrate schools in the mid-1960s.

In 1971, the Journal and Sentinel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its coverage of environmental issues associated with strip mining in North Carolina and Virginia.

Carroll retired in 1973, but remained active as a writer and lecturer at Wake Forest University.

Carroll's wife, Margaret, died in 2001. He is survived by four children, John S. Carroll, editor of the Los Angeles Times; Margaret Carroll, Rosamond Carroll and Patricia Carroll; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Highland Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem.

Carroll loved classical piano and, in lieu of flowers, the family suggests that contributions be made to the Wallace Carroll Endowed Scholarship in Piano, North Carolina School of the Arts, c/o Sarah M. Turner, Director of Donor Communications, 1533 S. Main St., Winston-Salem, N.C. 27127-2188. Checks may be payable to the NCSA Foundation Inc.

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