Kentucky book fair founder and newspaper editor Carl West dies

Carl West
Carl West

Carl West, editor emeritus of The State Journal in Frankfort and founder of the Kentucky Book Fair, died Sunday at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital after recently suffering a stroke. He was 74.

“He was a journalist’s journalist,” said longtime friend, Richard Wilson, a former reporter in The Courier-Journal’s Frankfort bureau.

A Campbell County native who studied journalism at the University of Kentucky and a former Kentucky Post reporter, West was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame in 2003.

He was a Frankfort correspondent for the Kentucky Post and covered the White House and Pentagon in Washington for Scripps Howard News Service. He was editor of The State Journal from 1979 to 2012.

A career highlight was his coverage of Watergate, the scandal that drove President Richard Nixon from office.

“He was curious about everything,” Wilson said. “Despite that gruff exterior of his, everybody who worked for him knew he was kind and considerate.”

After leaving Washington to work for The State Journal, West was a frequent panelist on Lexington WLEX-TV’s Your Government public-affairs show with host Sue Wylie.

Wylie said West had “a proprietary air about the show. He almost was like an assistant producer, especially in scheduling guests. He starred on the show. He was so talented but yet so modest.”

West also was a panelist on Kentucky Educational Television’s Comment on Kentucky, hosted by veteran Kentucky journalist Al Smith.

Smith said West was devoted to journalism and the news business, and was committed to the Kentucky Book Fair.

The fair, now in its 35th year, is one of the state’s most important annual literary and cultural events. Profits from it go to local libraries.

Al Cross, director of UK’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, said West won last year’s Al Smith Award for public service because of his work on the book fair.

Cross said West adopted the idea from the National Press Club’s book fair in Washington.

Funeral arrangements for West are pending at Harrod Brothers Funeral Home in Frankfort.