ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

In Memoriam: William Raspberry, Pioneering Journalist and Educational Leader

July 31, 2012 by William Gonch

ACTA joins readers across America in mourning the loss of William Raspberry, who died on July 17th. He was 76.

Mr. Raspberry began working for The Washington Post in 1962. In 1965 he won the Capital Press Club's Journalist of the Year award for his reporting on the Watts riots in Los Angeles; it would be the first of many major journalism prizes, including the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. He began writing a regular column for the Post in 1966; he would continue writing it for 39 years, eventually becoming syndicated and appearing in more than 200 newspapers nationwide.

Mr. Raspberry was among the first black columnists to appear in what was then known as "the white press;" his sharp reporting, elegant writing, and inspiring mentorship helped make it just "the press." He was a noted commentator on social challenges—family breakdown, parental disengagement—about foreign policy, and about civil rights. In an era of increasing political aggression he was noted for listening: he would write about the ideas of people who disagreed with him, and when he rebutted them he did it generously.

He was also a noted proponent of teaching. In his final column before retirement he wrote,

I still believe in the magic of education, a belief instilled in me by my teacher-parents. It scares me that the parents of so many young children today don't believe in the magic. It's almost as if they are afraid to believe in it, afraid to dream of success because they've become convinced that only failure is real. They may fantasize, but they don't strive.

In his retirement, if you can call it that, he helped them believe in the magic. He left column-writing in 2005 to devote himself full-time to his nonprofit ,"Baby Steps." Baby Steps is a school in Raspberry's hometown—but not like any school you've seen before. The school teaches parents—primarily low-income parents—how to teach their children and how to transform their homes into learning environments so that the children will succeed in school; it played a key role in rescuing the local school district.

In his educational entrepreneurship Mr. Raspberry exemplified the sort of innovative educational leadership that ACTA advocates; in his writing and his life he exhibited a gentle grace that all readers can admire.

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