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William Raspberry dies at 76: Washington Post columnist wrote about social issues including race, poverty
(17 July 2012)

William Raspberry


William Raspberry

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 newspaper’s 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, Raspberry’s 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 on television.

His book Looking Backward at Us, published in 1991, is a collection of some 50 of Raspberry’s 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 print publications.

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