Postal Updates

Former Postmaster General Paul N. Carlin, 1931-2018

May 3, 2021, 8 PM
Paul N. Carlin, 1931-2018.

Washington Postal Scene — By Bill McAllister

Paul Nestor Carlin, a career postal service worker who became the 66th postmaster general of the United States died April 25. He was 86.

A resident of McLean, Va., Mr. Carlin died at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington where he was being treated for the lingering effects of pneumonia, according to his widow.

Mr. Carlin was only the third career postal worker to preside over the U.S. Postal Service.

His term lasted only a year, Jan. 1, 1985, to Jan. 7, 1986, but it was a tumultuous period in which a contracting scandal involving a member of the Postal Service Board of Governors left a cloud over the agency.

That governor was sentenced to four years in prison for attempting to steer a contract for address-reading equipment to a Texas firm.

Court records and federal prosecutors later said that firing Mr. Carlin was part of a corrupt scheme by members of the postal board.

Mr. Carlin fought back, suing to reclaim his job.

The federal courts, however, rejected his efforts, saying that they had no power to intervene over the board of governors’ power to name the nation’s top postal executive.

“If ever a case cried out for judicial review to protect individual rights, this is that case,” Mr. Carlin said in his appeal to the Supreme Court.

In his petition to the high court, he charged that his removal was “fraudulently procured by a corrupt postal governor.”

While federal lawyers sought to dismiss his legal claim, they acknowledged Mr. Carlin’s firing was “a regrettable event in the history of the Postal Service.”

Born Aug. 25, 1931, in San Diego, he had worked as a Washington, D.C., lobbyist before President Richard Nixon made him his liaison with Congress on postal issues. He later became a labor relations specialist at Postal Service headquarters and then a regional postmaster general based in Chicago.

Mr. Carlin was in that position when the governors tapped him to succeeded William F. Bolger — an appointment he almost missed because the Ronald Reagan administration wanted the job to go to Edward J. Rollins, who had directed Reagan’s presidential campaign.

White House spokesman Larry Speakes acknowledged that the administration belatedly let the Postal Service know of its support for Rollins.

When Mr. Carlin took control of the USPS, it was faced with running deficits and he ordered salary cuts for top executives. His own salary was cut to $82,300 a year from $86,200.

He also canceled or delaying issuing several stamps, including a 14¢ holiday stamp and 18¢ Washington Monument stamp, according to an Associated Press report.

His family-written obituary, published May 13 in the Washington Post, cited his 17 years with the Postal Service and “instituting professional management practices and independent financial solvency for the organization.”

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After Mr. Carlin left the government, he created two companies which “brought hybrid mail innovations” to large mailers.

Mr. Carlin met his future wife, Sue, at the University of Wyoming, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science and was an All-American track star. In addition to Sue, his wife of 63 years, he is survived by four sons.

An Army veteran who rose to major in the reserves, Mr. Carlin will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.