Ralph McGill explains the newsroom affection for reporter and columnist Celestine Sibley in this 1960 article, published in place of Sibley's regular column while she was in the hospital. (AJC archives)

If There Is a Queen of Our New Shop It Is Sister Sibley

Ralph McGill, editor and columnist, wrote this about his colleague Celestine Sibley in 1960

Ralph McGill, the publisher and front page columnist of The Atlanta Constitution, explains why Celestine Sibley was “queen of our news shop” in a guest column published in place of Sibley’s regular column on Dec. 7, 1960. She was hospitalized at the time for what is described here as a gall bladder attack.

That sister Sibley lies temporarily on a bed of pain as I write these lines as a guest columnist, is a briar patch of pain for me and her fellow workers. I make haste to say there is nothing critical, or even serious, as we think of the word, in the source of her aches. The doctors so report. And she herself, when speaking of it, said she was suffering chiefly from the boredom of inactivity, and was weary from waking up at night to face those accusing figures which come at such hours to squat on the foot of one's bed and say, "I dare you to do something about me." 

For sister Sibley those are the relatively modest accusations of columns not written, of a book not finished, of buttons not sewed on, of floors unswept, of good deeds promised and not done. In effect, she feels herself to be in the dilemma best explained by that part of the Book of Common Prayer, to wit: "We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us." 

All of us, of course, have a deep affection for her as a person and a vast admiration of her as a craftsman. She can put words down in manner to excite envy among the rest of us. 

Since she is a sensitive person (as are most of her associates) the conversation between us is sentimental in a way always understood though camouflaged with ribald jest. Like, for example, when you take sister Sibley flowers you do not say, "This is from us with love." You say, "There were funeral wreaths on sale at a reduced price, but the flowers faded, so I bought these instead." Or, when sister Sibley said she had a severe chest pain you say, "Maybe you need a new bra." Or, for example, her office roommate, Mr. [Harold] Martin, comes in and says, "You look like an old witch this morning." This makes sister Sibley beam because she knows it is Mr. Martin's way of saying, "You look wonderful and I am glad to see you." 

This is the sort of intimate love talk that goes on, and I note it here that her readers may know how deep and abiding is our affection for her. If there is a queen of our The Constitution news shop, it is sister Sibley. 

It is embarrassing to her that she has a gall bladder attack, as this does not have a ladylike sound to it. She was greatly heartened, while at the same time sad, to learn that a handsome eight-year-old boy was suffering from the same ailment just a few doors down from her. The ailment has nothing to do with age or decline. She will be up in a few days. In the meantime she will be best off with rest and quiet and does not need telephone calls or visitors. 

Our guest column message to her is, "Hurry back. Your illness hurts us more than it does you. Your daily parade of helpless, indigent eccentrics is coming across the hall to see us."

Selected columns by Celestine Sibley

On the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968

It’s tiring and a turmoil, but have a joyful one anyhow!

Lonely 88-year-old proved Christmas isn’t just for children

Back porch soothes when sleep won’t come

Christmas means love: An answer to a child’s letter

Thankful for simple things in a troubled year [1968]

Reflections on being deserving of life’s gifts

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