He was intimidating to the novice not because he ranted and raved and threw his weight around - that was never, ever Roy Lilley's style - but because he was a perfectionist who lived and breathed good journalism and expected the very best from those who worked on the paper. Fairness. Precision. The facts.
But he also was (and is) a man who delighted in language. Who looked upon words as treasured gems to be gauged and polished and offered up in perfect setting.
He led the Belfast Telegraph through some of the darkest years of our history and at the CIPR Awards at the weekend his great contribution to local journalism was recognised when he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tribute was paid to his "cool head" during those dangerous days.
But he was an inspirational editor because he married that cool head with the warmest of hearts.
I imagine if you cut Roy Lilley, his veins would bleed ink so much is he a newspaperman.
At a time when the Press isn't getting the best press, he's an example of the honourable, glorious face of a business of which so many of us are still so proud.
Roy Lilley isn't just one of the newspaper game's good guys.
He's one of the best.