Last updated: July 12. 2014 11:21AM - 1718 Views
By - mstrother@lagrangenews.com



A clip from the May 1, 2001, article announcing the retirement of C. Lee West as managing editor of the LaGrange Daily News. West died Friday at age 75.
A clip from the May 1, 2001, article announcing the retirement of C. Lee West as managing editor of the LaGrange Daily News. West died Friday at age 75.
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C. Lee West, retired longtime managing editor of LaGrange Daily News, passed away Friday morning at age 75.
West, a LaGrange native, started working at LaGrange Daily News in the one-man classified department in May 1962, hired by then publisher Glen O. Long. According to a May 1, 2001, Daily News article announcing his retirement, over the years West worked in every department except bookkeeping, becoming the managing editor in 1970 and “acquiring a reputation as a meticulous editor of police reports and stickler for precise obituaries.”
He twice won Georgia Press Association awards for investigative reporting and one award for column writing.
Former co-workers remembered West for his dedication to detail, fairness in reporting and, despite his blunt personality, kindness.
“He had kind of a gruff exterior, but once you got to know him, you got to know that he was a very warm-hearted and sensitive guy,” said Joel Martin, former LaGrange Daily News senior reporter who worked with West for about 20 years. ” … He's just the kind of guy that would help anybody that would ask for it.”
West was opinionated and never shy about sharing how he felt, Martin said. West would always be in the office before anyone else, getting his work done, and kept a spotless desk.
Jeffrey Collins, now an Associated Press reporter based in Columbia, South Carolina, worked under West at the Daily News for his first job. He noted West working his way up from delivering papers to managing editor gave him a perspective lost in a lot of newsrooms today.
“He was cantankerous, but tried to be as right and fair as possible,” Collins said. “There was a heart of gold too hidden under all that ink. I have a dozen Lee stories, most of them not fit for print.”
West's knowledge both of the newspaper's workings and the local area made him an invaluable resource, former co-workers noted.
“He was like a walking encyclopedia of LaGrange because he knew so many people and knew where everything was in LaGrange and Troup County,” Martin said. “And he had a photographic memory. He could tell you not only who somebody was, but who they married and a lot of other details that the average person wouldn't recall.”
Jackie Kennedy, former LaGrange Daily News reporter, said West knew every aspect of the newspaper business, “from advertising and circulation to reporting and running the press.”
“He reported on murders and mayhem, and relished being 'in the know,'” Kennedy said. “He worked hard to be fair, to print the facts, to do right. He gave no preferential treatment; he'd put his own mother in the paper if she broke the law or abused her office. The consummate newsman, he was respected by his peers.”
Added Graham Dukes, former LDN reporter: “He was crusty like a lot of newspaper men, but he had heart and did what he thought was right, and he didn't show preference. When he died, he probably took a lot of this community's secrets with him because he knew so much so well.”
Natalie McKinley, now a LaGrange police officer, came to work at LaGrange Daily News in 1989 and had been in the newspaper business about two years. She said West taught her a lot about how to dig into an issue to get the deeper story.
“He was, you know, larger than life sometimes,” McKinley said. “He always tried to be fair in what he wrote and tried to instill in all of us to be fair, but never left a stone unturned. He was just an outstanding person and I'm gonna miss him.”
She added that West never missed a chance to point out when she made an error and throw a sarcastic comment her way.
“He'd say something like, 'Where did you graduate from, Podunk High School somewhere?,” McKinley recalled with a laugh.
However she also said West was really a good person at heart.
“I'm gonna miss him, and he would give you the shirt off his back if you'd ask for it,” McKinley said. “He was always willing to go out of his way to help somebody; he was just good that way.”
LaGrange City Councilman Nick Woodson had known West for over 55 years since high school.
Woodson said the two would email each other every week over the years and said West was very straight-forward with everyone he knew.
“You knew exactly how he stood. You could depend on him not lying to you,” Woodson said. “He would always tell it like it is.”
West thought the world of his granddaughter and grandchildren, Woodson said, and would do anything for them.
Councilman Bobby Traylor also had known West since high school and said the two became close as time went by.
“When we went our separate ways, we got closer,” said Traylor. “As you get older you kinda drift away, but we talked every week. He was a loyal friend. No matter what came up, he was there for you in any situation.”
Traylor said he and West had worked together at a bond company for seven years and have been playing Dominoes every Monday night for the last 25 years.
Traylor said he and his friends would joke of West's Dominoes skills.
“Lee was the dumbest Dominoes player in the world,” Traylor said his friends would commonly say.
— Jackie Kennedy contributed to this report.

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