Lillian Carlisle West

By Peggy Macdonald

Newspaper publisher, community leader (Panama City)

Years: 1884–1970

Remembered for: Early 20th century newspaper publisher.

Why you should know her:

Lillian Carlisle West was a newspaper publisher, manager and editor in a time when leadership positions in the newspaper industry were reserved for males. In a 1974 Florida Historical Quarterly article titled “A Woman Liberated,” historian Bernadette Loftin described West as a tenacious newspaperwoman and influential community leader.

Lillian Carlisle met George Mortimer West, a Panama City founder and publisher of the Panama City Pilot when she was 24 and he was 63, according to Loftin. They married in 1909, and Lillian gradually became more involved in managing the newspaper and her husband’s other businesses as his health declined. She assumed leadership of not only the business aspects of the newspapers, but the editorial section as well.

By 1923, Lillian West was the Pilot’s owner, publisher and business manager; by 1926, the Wests owned three newspapers. Reflecting the couple’s progressive views, the newspapers supported prohibition, government regulation of industry and honesty in government, and were critical of the Ku Klux Klan. Not surprisingly, the Pilot’s editorials supported women’s suffrage. When the 19th Amendment went into effect in 1920, Lillian West was the first woman to register to vote in the St. Andrews precinct. After her husband’s death in 1926, West controlled the family’s business interests. In 1937, she sold the three newspapers due to increasing competition but continued to operate the Panama City Publishing Company. In 1970, when Lillian West died at age 85, the Panama City News Herald printed a small obituary that described her merely as “Mrs. West, Widow of City Founder.” However, as Loftin has demonstrated, Lillian Carlisle West was a pioneering newspaperwoman.

Featured imageLilian Carlisle West