William Raspberry, retired Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at the Washington Post and its first African American in that role, died early Tuesday at his home in Washington. He was 76 and died of metastatic prostate cancer. "We had a full 45 years together," said wife Sondra. "He was surrounded by family."
A brief bio from the Washington Post reads:
"His newspaper career began with a summer job at the Indianapolis Recorder in 1956. His duties there as reporter, photographer and editor inspired him to join The Washington Post in 1962, after serving two years in the Army. At The Post, he was hired as a teletype operator and quickly advanced to general assignment reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.
"His coverage of the 1965 Watts riot in Los Angeles earned him the Capital Press Club's 'Journalist of the Year' award, and in 1967 he received a citation of merit in journalism from Lincoln University in Jefferson, Mo., for distinction in improving human relations.
"In 1994, William Raspberry won the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary.
The National Association of Black Journalists gave him its 1994 Lifetime Achievement Award. '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,' the NABJ said. 'His work has won him … the respect of readers all over America.' "
"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 a national dimension."
Raspberry was honored only last month with a roast and benefit for the foundation he created, BabySteps, which nurtures parents and preschoolers in Raspberry's hometown of Okolona, Miss. More than 200 journalists and other community people went to the Washington Post building for the tribute, which raised more than $40,000.
On June 5, Donald E. Graham, CEO of the Washington Post Co., gathered about a dozen of Raspberry's colleagues over the years for a lunch at the Post in Raspberry's honor. They told stories ranging from Raspberry's beginnings at the Post as a teletype operator to covering the 1965 Watts riots to Raspberry's work checking area police departments by telephone for news.
Raspberry married Sondra Patricia Dodson in 1966. Besides his wife, he is survived by his mother, who is 106; two daughters, Patricia Raspberry and Angela Raspberry Jackson; a son, Mark; a foster son, Reginald Harrison; a sister; and a brother.