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Kevin Carmody: 1958-2005

Award winner blended love of journalism, science in environmental reporting.

By Andrea Ball
Friday, March 11, 2005

Award-winning journalist Kevin Carmody, known across the country for his dogged reporting on environmental issues, died Wednesday.

Carmody was an Austin American-Statesman reporter since 2000.

"Kevin Carmody was an excellent reporter," American-Statesman Editor Richard Oppel said Thursday. "His passion for science and passion for journalism merged perfectly. His intellect caused him to pursue the complex story, the controversial story and the story that illuminated life for the average citizen."

Carmody was one of the founding members of the Society of Environmental Journalists. Throughout his 26-year career, he won dozens of national awards for his detailed work on topics including pollution, landfills and government corruption.

"Kevin has just been a leading light in this community," said Beth Parke, executive director of the Society of Environmental Journalists. "He was so talented, the quintessential journalist."

Carmody was 46. His death is being investigated as a suicide.

Carmody's journalism career started in high school.

Back then, the Milwaukee resident was a competitive swimmer who had a former reporter for a swim coach. The coach persuaded Carmody to work on the school newspaper, and Carmody was hooked.

He majored in journalism at Marquette University and served as editor in chief of the campus newspaper.

But he also loved science. During his last semester in college, he pored over microbiology and organic chemistry books borrowed from from his aunt, who was a medical technologist.

Carmody would eventually blend those two passions by specializing in environmental reporting.

After graduating from Marquette in 1980, he worked at newspapers including the Milwaukee Sentinel, The Beaumont Enterprise, The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Va., and the Daily Southtown in suburban Chicago.

His work never shied away from the controversial. Over the years, Carmody wrote about corrupt government officials, the effectiveness of the criminal court system and illegal pesticide use.

In 2003, he investigated the health risks caused by chemicals in Barton Springs Pool.

"As in the case of his investigation of pollutants in Barton Springs, his reporting could bring politicians, pseudo-scientists and special interests to rage — and to press conferences and demonstrations," Oppel said. "But, ultimately, he brought them to action."

But it was Carmody's grasp of the subject that set him apart from other journalists.

"There are not a lot of journalists in the United States who are willing and able to tackle complicated stories about chemical and health risks," said Jim Bruggers, a friend and board member of the Society of Environmental Journalists. "He was one of a handful of people who could do that successfully."

On Thursday, journalists across the country mourned Carmody's death.

But they also remembered him as a fun-loving fisherman who threw legendary St. Patrick's Day parties, wore cowboy boots, drove a Mustang, loved the Green Bay Packers, kept a messy desk at work and routinely performed acts of kindness.

"Kevin could walk up to anybody and have a conversation," longtime friend Jim Cullen said. "The next thing you knew, they were best friends."

Carmody is survived by his wife, Pat Dockery, and his daughter, Siobhan.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Carmody "served Austin well," Oppel said, "and we will miss him."
Published in Austin American-Statesman on Mar. 11, 2005
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