Carroll died Sunday morning at his home in Lexington, Kentucky, where he was once editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader, said his wife, Lee Carroll. He had been suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jakob (KROYTZ'-felt YAK-ohb) Disease, a rare and debilitating neurological disorder.
Carroll was editor and senior vice president at the Baltimore Sun from 1991 until 2000, when he took the head position at the Times that would become his last journalism job in a career spanning 40 years.
His years at the Times were considered a high point in the paper's recent history, and he and his managing editor Dean Baquet, who would succeed Carroll there and go on to lead The New York Times, were given credit for reviving newsroom morale after a 1999 issue of the paper's Sunday magazine whose revenue sharing agreement with the new downtown Staples Center arena became an ethical crisis and source of discord.
The paper's 13 Pulitzers during Carroll's five years came after it won just eight in the 1990s.
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Carroll's departure came amid increasing tensions over newsroom budget cuts and the paper's direction with corporate owner, the Tribune Company.
He received a standing ovation from the staff when he announced his resignation, and the Times' then-publisher Jeff Johnson told The Associated Press that Carroll left behind an "extraordinary legacy of journalistic excellence."
Born in New York and raised in North Carolina and Washington D.C., Carroll graduated from Haverford College in Pennsylvania in 1963 and took his first job as a reporter for the Providence Journal in Rhode Island.
He served two years in the Army and in 1966 went to work as a reporter for the Sun, where he covered the Vietnam War and the Nixon White House.
Carroll shifted to editor with a move to the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1973. He was hired by editor Gene Roberts, who successfully sought to transform that paper into a major force in journalism in the 1970s.
Carroll moved to Lexington in 1979, becoming editor at the Lexington Herald, which later became the Lexington Herald-Leader.
While there, he oversaw an investigative series titled "Cheating Our Children," focusing on the flaws in Kentucky's public education system and helping lead to a major series of legislative reforms in 1990.