UPI veteran Robert Carey dead

July 10, 2002 at 5:13 PM
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark., July 10 (UPI) -- Robert Carey, a skilled United Press International writer who covered the South's civil rights struggles in the 60's and many of the manned space flights in the Apollo lunar program, has died. He was 68.

Carey, who retired in May after 22 years of teaching journalism at the University of Arkansas, was on his first family vacation in many years in Florida when he died Monday after an apparent heart attack, said Patsy Watkins, chair of the journalism department.

Carey, who worked for UPI in Little Rock, Baton Rouge, La., New Orleans and New York over 18 years, covered many of the most notable events and famous people of the 60's and 70's. His writing skills were often showcased by his editors in the UPI reporter, a company newsletter.

Frank Schultz, who worked with Carey in Little Rock, called him "a word merchant" who was always calm under pressure and a steady hand in taking his notes over the phone from any remote assignment and then turning them into polished copy.

"I'd be frantically calling from a phone booth somewhere, either the state Senate in Little Rock or somewhere in the boonies, and Bob would be the person that when the UPI copy came out he would take what details I had given him, put them together to make them look like and sound like music," he said.

Another former UPI reporter, who worked with Carey in Little Rock, was the Rev. Ellen Debenport, who is now an associate pastor at the Unity Church of Dallas.

"He was handsome, charming, funny and I learned some journalism from him too," she said. "He was a delight to work for. I was so young and green and stupid. He was patient with that and he gave me confidence that I was doing all right and he taught me more about how to be a good reporter."

During his UPI career, Carey wrote about many of the most famous personalities of the 60's and 70's, including Martin Luther King Jr., George Wallace, Stokely Carmichael, Buzz Aldrin, Gus Grissom, Gordon Cooper, Elvis Presley, Orval Faubus, Wilbur Mills and Dr. Benjamin Spock.

He was a member of the UPI reporting team that covered the 1976 Republican National Convention and Norman Mailer's mayoral campaign in New York City.

Many of his best features appeared in magazine sections of major newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Constitution, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Newsday, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Carey's features were carried five times in "Selections," an annual publication of UPI that showcased the wire service's best reporting and writing from around the world.

At the University of Arkansas, the UPI veteran was named Gannett Teaching Fellow in July 1981. He also wrote a number of op-ed columns for the Arkansas Gazette on topics ranging from the Chicago Cubs to being an ex-journalist. He also became more that just a tough editor to many of his students.

"He really had a way of connecting with students who would look to him for advice and guidance in their lives and come back and visit with him after they had graduated and stay in touch with him," said Watkins, a friend of nearly 20 years.

"He was also one of the funniest people I've ever known. A very cleaver man and an excellent writer."

Carey is survived by his wife, Judy, and two boys, Jim and his wife, Susan, and Mike, and his wife, Kelly. They all live in Fayetteville.

Funeral services are scheduled at 2 p.m. Friday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fayetteville.

Cards may be sent to: Judy Carey, 2623 Elizabeth Avenue, Fayetteville, AR 72703.

The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts be made to the University of Arkansas Lemke Department of Journalism.

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