Carolyn Patterson, 82; Senior Editor at National Geographic

From Staff and Wire Reports

Carolyn Bennett Patterson, 82, the first woman to become a senior editor at National Geographic magazine, died Monday of cirrhosis of the liver at her home in Washington, D.C.

Patterson, who joined the magazine in 1949 and retired in 1986, spent much of her career directing the writing of its captions -- known as legends -- and texts for its supplement maps.

According to an obituary in the Washington Post, the legend writers were expected to have independently and thoroughly researched their subjects. The legends were also supposed to be so engaging that they might draw the reader into the article.

She also wrote major stories for the magazine, including one on the funeral of Winston Churchill and one on Mardi Gras in New Orleans. She traveled once in a river canoe in Brazil and hiked rugged terrain in Tanzania.


Born in Laurel, Miss., Patterson graduated from Louisiana State University. She worked as a police reporter for the New Orleans States newspaper during World War II and moved to Washington after the war.

She was a former president of the Society of American Travel Writers and a member of the Society of Women Geographers.