Veteran journalist Carroll Lisby dies at age 81

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 22, 2012 

A few weeks after writing about the local reaction to the creation of the Salk polio vaccine, 24-year-old Columbus Ledger reporter Carroll Lisby began to feel ill.

He, his wife and his doctor first thought it was the flu. But soon, Lisby began to have difficulty moving his arms and legs, even breathing. The young father of two (with another on the way) was taken to City Hospital and diagnosed with paralytic poliomyelitis, the debilitating disease the Salk vaccine would soon all but eliminate. The year was 1956, and he would never walk again without crutches and leg braces.

Carroll Edward Lisby, who would survive polio and return to a 36-year career with the Ledger-Enquirer, died Friday at the age of 81.

He would never be a beat reporter again after recovering from polio. “That requires too much legwork,” he wrote at the time.

He came back instead as a copy editor, but soon rose through the ranks, to news editor, managing editor, editor of the Ledger, editor of the Enquirer and then, when the papers merged in 1988, senior editor of the Ledger-Enquirer. In that position, Lisby wrote columns and editorials on the editorial page. He retired from full-time newspaper work in 1990, but continued writing personal columns for several more years.

Tom Kunkel, then 29, came to the newspapers in 1986 as the youngest executive editor in their long histories. He worked closely with Lisby on the newspaper’s editorial board.

"I always considered Carroll Lisby the epitome of a Southern gentleman and, more important for Columbus and environs, a most courageous journalist,” Kunkel, now an author and president of St. Norbert College in Wisconsin. “He knew what all great editorial writers know -- you help your community best by telling the truth. And that surely will be his enduring legacy."

Not long after Lisby contracted polio, while he was still being treated first at City Hospital and then at Warm Springs, he wrote a five-piece series titled “I was struck down by polio.” In addition to winning numerous journalism awards, the series was picked up and run by close to 100 newspapers across this country and in several others.

“I really want to tell this story, my story,” Lisby wrote in the first installment. “I am not vain. I suppose you would call me self-effacing. But I want to tell the story because it is my job. I should do it. I am a newspaper reporter.”

Lisby is survived by his wife, Mary, a son, Gregory, and a daughter, Nina Beth.

Visitation will be Friday from 6-9 p.m. at Vance-Brooks Funeral Home, 4048 Macon Road. Funeral services will be Saturday at 2 p.m. at Vance-Brooks.

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