Former Newsday reporter Maurice “Mickey” Carroll, who competed with giants of New York journalism and witnessed the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, President John F. Kennedy’s assassin, died Wednesday.
Carroll was 86. He died of colon cancer at his family home in Convent Station, New Jersey, relatives said.
He worked for the Quinnipiac University Poll and taught journalism at Quinnipiac University since 1995 after more than 40 years working at New York and New Jersey newspapers. Carroll covered politics for Newsday, The New York Times, the Herald Tribune, the New York Post, the Newark Star-Ledger and other newspapers in New Jersey; as well as The Hill in Washington, D.C., during the heyday of metro newspaper wars. Carroll also taught journalism at Columbia, New York and Montclair State universities.
“Mickey Carroll was a reporter in the finest tradition of American journalism, a dedicated educator and a knowledgeable commentator on the American political scene,” said Quinnipiac University President John L. Lahey. “He educated thousands in the classroom and millions through his reporting and his work with the poll.”
Carroll was the son of Maurice C. Carroll, a businessman, and Dorothy Joyce Carroll, a bookkeeper, who raised him in Rutherford, New Jersey. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame and served in the Army.
Irascible yet endearing, Carroll was remembered fondly by some top journalists decades after he left journalism.
Writer Sam Roberts and columnist Clyde Haberman are among the boldfaced names who worked with Carroll at the Times.
“Mickey was a journalist’s journalist,” Roberts said. “He never suffered fools, phonies or inflated egos, whether they were public officials or editors; his writing was lucid, nuanced, impervious to pretense or dissembling and delivered confidently by deadline.”
Haberman called Carroll “the ultimate pro.”
“He had a rare gift for boiling down the thoughts of even the windiest political gasbag into clear, punchy, easily grasped sentences,” Haberman said. “Politicians never fazed him. Editors certainly didn’t . . . and no one benefited more than the readers.”
Harry Rosenfeld, who worked with Carroll at the Herald Tribune before Rosenfeld went to The Washington Post, called Carroll “a first-rate colleague . . . there was a brightness about him that was infectious. . . . I am so much better for having known him.”
As “the voice of the Quinnipiac poll,” Carroll melded sharp political instincts and experience to provide context to political surveys, said Lee Miringoff, of the Marist College Poll.
Carroll’s second book, after writing about the 1979-’80 Iran hostage standoff, was 2013’s “Accidental Assassin . . . Jack Ruby and 4 minutes in Dallas.” He said he wrote the book after finally diving through boxes of his notebooks and messages to his Herald Tribune editors back in New York to write of his experiences after Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas in 1963. Carroll was once asked why he took on the task after enough books to fill the Texas School Book Depository had already been written on the subject.
“I wrote this for you guys,” he told a reporter, referring to all younger reporters trying to make their way in journalism in uncertain times and in need of encouragement and counsel. The book’s cover is the iconic shot of Jack Ruby shooting Oswald while in police custody. Ten feet behind Oswald in the historic image is Carroll.
It “was a tiny pop, Jack Ruby’s gun firing. Then two muffled groans, Oswald’s. Then chaos,” Carroll wrote.
Carroll told an insider’s story of those days in Dallas, including the wrestling match between two wire service reporters moments after Kennedy was shot and after one of the reporters had called in the flash bulletin, but refused to give up the only available phone.
Carroll was predeceased by his second wife, the pioneering political columnist Beth Fallon, in 2006 at age 64, and son Patrick, who died in 2005.
He is survived by his first wife, Peggy Carroll; another son, New Jersey Assembly member Michael Carroll; daughters Eileen and Elizabeth; sister Anne Shannon; and 10 grandchildren.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated Dec. 14 at 10:30 a.m. in St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church, 4 Convent Rd., Morristown, New Jersey. Burial plans are private.