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Paper man remains constant at The Democrat
Dec 26, 2012 5:00 pm
Billy Carr is a mainstay of The Lebanon Democrat, drifting through the newsroom every morning delivering mail and the latest hot gossip from "the restaurant," where he discusses the news of the day with his friends.
While editors, reporters and other workers have come and gone, for 65 years, Carr is 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 Howard Kirby, then-owner of the paper, 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. "He said, 'We can depend on him.' He was right."
Then, 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 1950 to change 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."
Carr said those were the days when 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 has seen it all – from 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 is known for his irreverent sense of humor and the sly smile usually on his face. Every morning he comes into the newsroom bursting with news and gossip and poking fun at local politicians. It's been suggested he write a column called "news from the restaurant," but he prefers to be the provocateur behind the scenes.
Now, he's content to work part-time at the paper where he brings a smile to everyone's face even on the most stressful day.
"It's not over yet," he said.
At least at The Democrat, everyone hopes he will be delivering the mail, along with the latest gossip, for many years to come.