Shirley Elder Lyons, 85, reporter and Tip O’Neill biographer

Shirley Elder Lyons, 85, of Portsmouth, N.H., a former Washington political reporter, died on Sunday, September 18, 2016, of complications of Parkinson's disease.

Born in California, she was raised in Seattle. She graduated from Stanford University in 1954 and went to Washington, D.C., as a reporter, first for The Washington Post, later for the Washington Daily News and the Washington Star. She was co-author of two books: Tip, a Biography of Thomas P. O'Neill Jr., Speaker of the House and Interest Groups, Lobbying and Policymaking.

She moved to Sandwich, New Hampshire, in 1981 with her husband, Richard L. Lyons, but continued working part time as a reporter for the Boston Globe's New Hampshire Weekly.

In Sandwich, Shirley was president of the Friends of the Samuel Wentworth Library, a member of the Bearcamp Valley Garden Club, the New Hampshire Music Festival, Sandwich Historical Society, the Society for the protection of New Hampshire Forests and the Over the Hill hikers. She worked as a writer and co-editor on the book of Sandwich history published in 1995 by the Sandwich Historical Society.

When Shirley Elder Lyons received the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Print Media Award in 1993 for the second consecutive year, she had already spent four decades in a career that took her from California to covering Congress to the Granite State.

As a correspondent for the Globe’s New Hampshire Weekly, she examined campaign funding, interviewed politicians, and profiled top judges and lawyers – only to subsequently report on ethics woes some of them faced.

She also reported on the achievements of women who pushed for gender parity in New Hampshire’s elected offices and legal community. Mrs. Lyons’s profile of the first woman to serve as president of the state bar association was among the pieces that led to the award.

“My philosophy is we have a responsibility to educate people and to tell people in simple terms about complex legal issues,” she told the Globe in a January 1993 interview.


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