Overby Center Tribute Honors Okolona Native, Washington Post Columnist William Raspberry

OXFORD, Miss. – William Raspberry won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary and collected many other accolades during his long career at The Washington Post, but he never forgot his Mississippi roots. Six weeks after his death in July, Raspberry will be the latest journalist to be celebrated posthumously in a program at the University of Mississippi’s Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.

The program, which is free and open to the public, is set for 8 a.m. Wednesday (Aug. 29) in the Overby Center Auditorium. Raspberry died July 17 at his home in Washington.Raspberry’s longtime friend Milton Coleman, a senior editor at The Washington Post, will be featured on a panel that also includes Ivy Lovelady, who directs the Baby Steps program that Raspberry initiated in Mississippi. The discussion will be led by Patricia Thompson, director of the UM Student Media Center who was mentored by Raspberry when she was a young reporter at the Post.

“In 1976, Bill Raspberry was one of the earliest recipients of the Silver Em, the highest honor given to journalists with Mississippi connections, so it’s especially appropriate that we honor his memory,” said Overby fellow Curtis Wilkie. “He was not only an outstanding figure in American journalism, he practiced some of the principles he wrote about by establishing the Baby Steps program in his home state.”

Baby Steps, which Raspberry launched in his hometown of Okolona, is designed to help parents develop skills to aid them in raising children.

Raspberry, who was 76, joined The Washington Post in 1962 and quickly became one of the first African-American columnists in 1966. He won the Silver Em in 1976 and the Pulitzer Prize in 1994. In 1999, he also received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award, as well as an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Colby College.

Topics for his nationally-syndicated column ranged from civil rights to his support of gay rights. A collection of his columns from the 1980s was published as a book, “Looking Backward at Us.”

He retired from the Post in 2005 and later served as a journalism professor at Duke University.

The tribute to Raspberry will be the fourth time a Pultizer Prize-winning journalist has been honored by the Overby Center. Earlier programs dealt with the careers of David Halberstam, Doug Marlette and Jack Nelson shortly after their deaths.

For more information or for assistance related to a disability, contact Dawn Jeter at 662-915-1692. For more information, visit the Overby Center.