William Raspberry, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his column in The Washington Post, died today at his home in Washington, his paper reported. He was 76.
As Poynter explains, Raspberry was one of the paper’s first black reporters and became of the first black journalists in the country to acquire a mainstream column.
The Post sums up his work like this:
“Mr. Raspberry wrote an opinion column for The Post for nearly 40 years before retiring in 2005. More than 200 newspapers carried his syndicated columns, which were filtered through the prism of his experience growing up in the segregated South.
“His writings were often provocative but seldom predictable. Although he considered himself a liberal, Mr. Raspberry often bucked many of the prevailing pieties of liberal orthodoxy. He favored integration but opposed busing children to achieve racial balance. He supported gun control but — during a time when the District seemed to be a free-fire zone for drug sellers — he could understand the impulse to shoot back.”
Just last month, the Post hosted a lunch to honor Raspberry. According to an account of the event by the Washington Informer, the activist Robert Woodson said his first meeting with Raspberry ended in a “heated three-hour argument.”
“What stood out is his independence, his political and philosophical independence,” Woodson said according to the Informer. “A lot of pundits you can predict what they’re going to write, but he was willing to change his mind in the face of new information. He’s a man moved by evidence. Few people are. They have an ideological position and do everything to defend that. His punditry is really missed.”
Richard Prince, of the Maynard Institute, notes that Woodson was given the National Association of Black Journalist’s Life Time Achievement Award in 1994, the same year he was awarded the Pulitzer.
“Raspberry’s clarity of thought and his insistence on speaking the truth as he sees it – even when others disagree – have kept his column fresh, unpredictable and uncommonly wise,” NABJ wrote in its citation.
Raspberry’s first column appeared in The Post in 1967.