William Raspberry was born
October 12, 1935, in Okolona, Mississippi. He earned a B.S. degree
from Indiana Central College in 1958 and served as a public information
office in the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C., from 1960 to 1962.
After his military service, Raspberry joined the staff of the Washington
Post, beginning as a teletypist and working his way up to writing
obituary notices after a few months. He worked at the newspapers
city desk, first as reporter then as assistant editor, before taking
over in 1966 as columnist of Potomac Watch, a column
that dealt with local issues. Over time, he shaped the column to
match his own interests, which included such issues as drug abuse,
criminal justice, and minority issues. From 1966 until his retirement in 2005, Raspberrys columns
appeared in the Post and other newspapers.
His reputation for independent thought on national and international
issues led Time magazine to call him the Lone Ranger
of columnists as well as the most respected black voice
on any white U.S. newspaper.
Raspberry received numerous awards
for his writing. In 1965, he was named Journalist of the Year by
the Capitol Press Club for his coverage of the Los Angeles Watts
riot. A member of the Pulitzer Prize Board for several years, Raspberry
himself was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1982. He won a Pulitzer
Prize in 1994 for Distinguished Commentary.
He also taught journalism at Howard
University and served as a commentator and discussion panelist
His book Looking Backward at Us,
published in 1991, is a collection of some 50 of Raspberrys
columns, primarily from the 1980s, covering such issues as race,
family, education, and criminal justice. Raspberry consistently
manages to make himself heard at a reasonable decibel level,
comments a reviewer in Washington Post Book World, and highlights
a comment the columnist made in a commencement address: Your
best shot at happiness, self-worth and personal satisfaction
the things that constitute real success is not in earning
as much as you can but in performing as well as you can something
that you consider worthwhile.
Raspberry died July 17, 2012, at his home in Washington, D.C. He was 76.
(Article first posted October
2001; updated 19 July 2012)
- Looking Backward at Us. Jackson: University Press
of Mississippi, 1991.
In addition, Raspberry has written numerous articles and essays in
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