Questions still surround death of Beck's mother in 1979

Some 800 protesters packed the sidewalks outside an auditorium in Mount Vernon, Washington, on Saturday to express their displeasure at the city mayor's decision to give Fox News host Glenn Beck the key to the city.

"The Fox News personality's visit Saturday to Mount Vernon had sparked weeks of protests and petitions calling for the cancellation of the visit," Seattle's KOMO TV reported. The station said one protester was arrested when the crowd "surged" during the protests.

As the protest mounted, an airplane could be seen flying overhead trailing behind it the words "Change the locks," KOMO reported.

And, in what has evidently become a habit of his, Beck wept openly as he reminisced about growing up in the town north of Seattle, according to the Seattle Times.

NCB affiliate KING Channel 5 got varied reactions from the crowd in attendance:

"I think we need people on TV that are not fomenting anger and hatred and tearing this country apart," said protestor Doug LeClair. "It's a really sad thing that he's being honored in this way, it's a really sad event."

"He's kind of a native son from this whole area," said Bellingham resident Larry Helm, "and I heard they were going to ship in busloads of protestors from Seattle, and I don't think that's right. I'm coming here to show this area supports the decision to give him the keys to the city."

Mount Vernon and the nearby town of Bellingham got into a political tiff of sorts earlier this month, when Mount Vernon Mayor Bud Norris announced he would give the Fox News and radio host the key to the city. Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike responded by offering the key to his city to Daily Show host Jon Stewart, but that idea was shot down by the city council.

For his part, Beck addressed the controversy over his honor with humor.

"I would give my right arm to live in a town like Mount Vernon," the Seattle Times quoted him as saying. "And I discovered today that there are a ton of people ready to cut it off. ... It doesn't bother me, because I have the key to their house now."


With Beck returning to his hometown to receive honors, attention has turned to Beck's youth in the area.

The most prominent issue to capture reporters' attention is the continuing mystery surrounding the death of Beck's mother, whose body was pulled out of Puget Sound in 1979, when Beck was 15. The body of Orean Carroll, the man who had invited Mary Beck out for a boat cruise, was found washed up on shore nearby a day later.

The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington, cites a recent article at as the starting point for its investigation into the death of Beck's mother, which the newspaper found had been declared an "accident" by police.

But that's not what Beck has been telling audiences about the tragic incident from his youth. The News Tribune reports:

Years later, during his radio and television broadcasts and in interviews, Beck consistently has described his mother’s death as a suicide, part of a running thread in the fabric of his personal story of salvation – the hallmark of his broadcasts. Beck’s stepbrother also killed himself, Beck has said.

“My mom wasn’t mother of the year,” Beck told his audience last year. “My mother, my mother had real deep, deep problems. She was doing her best, but she left the family to deal with suicide when I was 13 years old.”

Beck has said that, like his mother, he has battled chemical addiction and nearly killed himself, too – until finding redemption through, among other things, Alcoholics Anonymous and Mormonism.

No one could begrudge Beck coming to face his mother's death -- and his own professed contemplation of suicide -- on his own terms, but's article points to a pattern of inaccuracy in what Beck has said publicly about the incident. For one thing, the article points out, Beck says his mother died in 1977, when he was 13, but official records show her death to have taken place in 1979, when he was 15.

And Salon notes that Beck had been quiet about the whole thing for many years: Beck's first wife "had never heard of Mary Beck's alleged suicide until years after they married, when she heard her husband discussing it live on the radio," the magazine reports.

"Whether or not some of its details are reliable, the story of how Glenn Beck the teenage DJ became Glenn Beck the cultural phenomenon has both political and personal significance," Salon writes. "But is Beck's journey conservatism's post-millennial crack-up writ small, complete with a preference for faith over fact? Is it simply a classic showbiz success story? Or, as Beck and his loyal legions would have it, is it a tale of resurrection, of a born-again patriot rescued from nihilism and now destined to save America from liberalism?"