Newsman Lucien Carr Dies at 79
Saturday, Jan. 29, 2005
Lucien Carr, 79, who was a friend of the Beat Generation writers since their college days and who spent decades as a mainstay of one of the major news wire services, died Jan. 28 at George Washington University Hospital.
Mr. Carr, who lived in Washington and was retired after 47 years at United Press International, had cancer, according to his longtime companion, Kathleen Silvassy.
Accounts of the founding of the Beat Generation often credit Mr. Carr with bringing together such celebrated figures of the movement as Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.
Kerouac and Ginsberg, like Mr. Carr, were students at Columbia University in the 1940s, and Mr. Carr knew Burroughs from their prep school days in St. Louis.
Kerouac is said to have typed the manuscript of his landmark novel "On the Road" on a scroll of teletype paper provided by Mr. Carr.
"He and Jack were extremely close," said Jon Frandsen, a former top editor at UPI.
The Beats, who seemed to exist on the edge of propriety in their search for experience, won renown for their willingness to defy convention in pursuit of literary truth.
Mr. Carr's days as the colleague of these freewheeling figures might seem at odds with his image later in life at UPI as, in Silvassy's words, "a newsman's newsman."
But if the goal of the Beats was discovering or portraying truth through fiction or poetry, Mr. Carr's long career in news was, as his son Simon described it in an interview, also devoted to truth.
His work at UPI, where he became assistant managing editor for national news, "had a very abstract but conceivably attainable goal of telling the truth," Simon Carr said.
As an editor and manager in an organization providing news to millions, Mr. Carr, in the words of his son, was "very no-nonsense." He enjoyed the often colorful and idiosyncratic people who worked for him, but he insisted that they abandon what he saw as fluff and foolishness and "get to the essence of the story."
Said Frandsen: "He really believed that journalists were about the business of finding out the truth as best as they could."
Mr. Carr was born in New York and raised in St. Louis. Before entering Columbia, he was educated at private schools that included Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.
He is said to appear under fictitious names in works by Kerouac and some of the others.
In 1944, according to published accounts, Mr. Carr, in his late teens, fatally stabbed a man who reportedly was making an unwanted advance. He was imprisoned for two years but, according to his son Simon, eventually received a pardon.
Silvassy said Mr. Carr started at what was then United Press as a copyboy in 1946 or 1947, rose through the ranks and transferred to Washington in 1983. She said he was particularly excited and enthralled by the moon landings and "was up day and night" supervising coverage. He retired in 1993.
According to his son, he was married three times. His other children are Ethan Carr of Amherst, Mass., and Caleb Carr of Cherry Plain, N.Y.
Mr. Carr's last years were "devoted to his family," including his five grandchildren by whom he was "much loved," his son said. -- Martin Weil/The Washington Post