The Washington Post, syndicated columnist
Inducted June 16, 2000
William Raspberry, a Washington, D.C.-based urban and minority affairs columnist, wrote a warmly personal, twice-weekly column that attracted a wide following after it starting appearing in The Washington Post in the mid-1960s.
Time magazine wrote: “Raspberry has emerged as the most respected black voice on any white U.S. newspaper. He considers the merits rather than the ideology of any issue. Not surprisingly, his judgments regularly nettle the Pollyannas and militants.
Raspberry grew up in the small Mississippi town of Okolona, which he likened to the one in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“We had two of everything there,” Raspberry recalled. “One for whites and one for blacks.”
He followed a pre-ministerial curriculum and Indiana Central College and graduated with a BS in History in 1960.
His newspaper career began with a summer job at the Indianapolis Recorder in 1956. His duties there was reporter, photographer, and editor inspired him to join The Washington Post in 1962, after serving two years in the Army. At The Post, he worked successively as a teletype operator general assignment reporter, copy editor, and assistant city editor.
His coverage of the 1965 Watts riot earned him the Capital Press Club’s “Journalist of the Year” award, and in 1967 he levied a Citation of Merit in Journalism from Lincoln University in Jefferson, Mo., for distinction in improving human relations. More than a dozen educational institutions awarded him honorary doctorates.
In 1994, Raspberry won the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary. The National Association of Black Journalism gave him its 1994 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Raspberry’s column first ran in 1966 in the local section of The Post. In 1971, his column was moved to the paper’s op-ed page. Raspberry continued to comment on issues of education, crime, justice, drug abuse, and housing, but added national dimension. Demand by newspaper editors to buy his colun resulted in its syndication by The Washington Post Writers Group in 1977.
Raspberry’s column appeared in more than 200 newspapers. It addressed modern ideas and proposals for answers to social dilemmas. “I don’t enjoy celebrating problems, I talk about problems with a view to inching toward solutions,” he said.
Georgetown University, honoring him with a doctorate degree in 1984, said that Raspberry “has shown us what we are, but has also shown us what we might be.”