Lucy B. Ward, an excellent news reporter

By Rozella Hardin
STAR Staff

   Lucy B. Ward has been a part of the Elizabethton STAR's history for more than 50 years. She began her career at the newspaper in her teens, working as a typist for the late Herman Robinson, then publisher of the newspaper.
   Ward grew up in the world of newspapers. A native of Johnson County, she was the daughter of the late Thomas Barry and Nell Barry, who owned and published the Johnson County newspaper for a number of years. Her mother later worked at the Elizabethton STAR in the production department and retired from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
   Lucy often told the story of how her mother moved the family to Elizabethton when forced to sell the Johnson County paper following her husband's death and the drafting of the only pressman by the military during World War II.
   Lucy soon graduated from being the publisher's typist to being a writer and reporter. She developed into a real "news hound," always snooping and searching for a good story. "Everyone has a story," she told young reporters.
   She worked with and learned from the best in the business -- Herman Robinson, Mack Morriss, Bill Waddell, Bill Austin, Sue Thomas, Ruby Ford, Henry and Bill Jenkins, and Fred Behrend, among others. Lucy soon became numbered among the best herself. She mothered young reporters and delighted in taking them under her wings to teach them the ropes.
   Lucy earned the respect of her peers, never budging and always standing her ground when it came to gathering the news. She often referred to her role in her early years as "a woman in a man's world." She never compromised her integrity or her ability as a reporter.
   Lucy enjoyed a good rapport with people, both in high and low places -- whether it be Lamar Alexander when he was governor, the janitor at the Courthouse, or the cab driver who brought her to work each day.
   Lucy served at the STAR as a general news reporter, church and education editor, women's editor, and, later, news editor. She also worked in the Circulation Department.
   As a reporter, she stayed informed, not only of local happenings, but also of national and international news. She was an avid reader and "religiously" watched CNN. Long after she left the STAR, she remained informed of local news events.
   Lucy's integrity as a news reporter was never questioned. She strived for accuracy in her reporting and encouraged young reporters "to get it right." There were discouraging days for her as a reporter, when, for instance, she had to report stories involving people close to her. There were times when she would refuse to do a story, especially if it caused her to compromise her beliefs.
   "She was the best newspaper woman I ever knew. Ornery but good," said Frank Robinson, chairman of the board for Elizabethton Newspapers, upon learning of Lucy's death. He told of an occasion when, in his presence, Lucy was interviewing a local businessman.
   "The fellow she was interviewing started to tell her how to spell a word, when she abruptly interrupted him and said, 'I know how to spell.'".
   Lucy was spunky, and she loved politics. In later years, she was active in the Carter County Democratic Party.
   She was last employed by the STAR in 1990-1991 for a period of about 11 months, when she temporarily replaced a reporter who was called to active duty in Desert Storm.
   STAR employees were her second family. Long after she left the newspaper, she would occasionally visit and call. When her health began to fail and she chose to move to a nursing home a couple of years ago, Lucy still interacted with STAR staff. She received the STAR every day and would call a couple of times each week. There were times when her voice would be very weak, but she was never too weak to comment on the news -- good or bad.
   Wednesday morning, after her son Barry had read the Bible to her and prayed with her, Lucy proclaimed: "Bear, this is ridiculous. It's time to go." A short time later, she breathed her last breath. Her statement was characteristic of a woman whose strong will had shaped her into the best when it came to not only being a reporter, but also a person of integrity.
   I was one of those young reporters who was mentored by Lucy B. Ward.