Joy Billington Doty, veteran Washington Star reporter, dies at 91

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Joy Billington Doty, a British-born journalist who worked at the Washington Star from 1967 until the paper folded in 1981 and covered first ladies, society news, Embassy Row functions and dignitaries visiting, died August 11 at her home in Washington. She was 91 years old.

His son, Nigel Billington, confirmed the death but said the exact cause was not yet known.

In her six decades as a writer, beginning as a freelancer for a Singapore newspaper, Ms Doty has interviewed five US presidents and their wives, the kings of Jordan and Thailand, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the child movie star turned diplomat Shirley Temple The Black.

“I like interviewing people. I like to do scenes that depict an evening at the White House and make people feel like they’re there,” she said in a 2005 interview for this obituary. She also liked to inspire world leaders to exhibit a bit of their humanity.

“Indira Gandhi confessed to me, ‘It’s not easy to ride a tiger,'” Ms Doty said of the former Indian prime minister. “I felt a lot of sympathy for the difficulty she was having” with male world leaders.

The eldest of three children, she was born Joy Manson in Liverpool, England on March 20, 1931, to a merchant seaman and nurse. She was 9 when she was supposed to travel to Canada as part of an evacuation plan for British children during World War II. She had an outbreak of hives and missed boarding SS City of Benareswhich was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in 1940. Seventy of the 90 children on board died.

Eventually, her mother took her and her two siblings to Scotland for the duration of the war. At 18, she was so upset that her father was moving the family to Perth, Australia – when she wanted to attend art school – that she unsuccessfully threatened to marry a Royal Marine.

In Australia, she found herself restless and lost. “My parents put me in the hospital and said, ‘Be a nurse,'” she later told the Fort Lauderdale News. Her constant battle of wills with the head nurse led her to leave.

On a ship to Singapore, she met a journalist who suggested she make money as a freelancer for the Singapore Standard. “At the tender age of 21,” she told the News, “I became a romance columnist… ‘Dear Georgeanne.’ She also married an import-export executive, Reginald Billington, and had a son.

They later lived in British North Borneo (now the Malaysian state of Sabah) and Thailand, where she worked for the press for the United States News Agency and was self-employed. She was divorced and returned to England in 1964, writing for suburban newspapers and eventually as a freelancer for the women’s pages of The Times of London.

Ms. Doty first came to the United States in 1967 to report for The Times and the London Daily Telegraph on notable American women in business and politics. Captivated by her access to first lady Lady Bird Johnson during a trip to Appalachia, she decided to stay and soon joined the Star as a society reporter.

Around this time, she met the Reverend Joseph Doty, a Jesuit priest and principal of Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Maryland. After their marriage in 1969, Reverend Doty was automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He became an Episcopal priest.

“I love the Catholic Church and I always will, but I felt I needed more freedom to think about religious positions than I could have in the Roman Church,” he told AFP. ‘era. (He later became chaplain of the National Cathedral School for Girls in Washington and principal of St. Stephen’s School in Alexandria, Va.)

After the Star closed, Ms Doty wrote about the Reagan White House for the San Diego Union before moving to Scotland in 1985 for her husband’s next church assignment. He died in 2003. In addition to his son, Nigel, of Nérac, France, survivors include a sister.