Russell Baker

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Russell Baker
Born
Russell Wayne Baker

(1925-08-14)August 14, 1925
DiedJanuary 21, 2019(2019-01-21) (aged 93)
Education Johns Hopkins University
Occupation Journalist, writer, narrator
Notable work
Growing Up
Spouse(s)
Miriam Nash
(m. 1950;died 2015)
Awards Pulitzer Prize (1979, 1983)

Russell Wayne Baker (August 14, 1925 – January 21, 2019) was an American journalist, narrator, writer of Pulitzer Prize-winning satirical commentary and self-critical prose, and author of Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography Growing Up (1983). [1] He was a columnist for The New York Times from 1962 to 1998, and hosted the PBS show Masterpiece Theatre from 1992 to 2004. The Forbes Media Guide Five Hundred, 1994 stated: "Baker, thanks to his singular gift of treating serious, even tragic events and trends with gentle humor, has become an American institution." [2]

Pulitzer Prize U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition

The Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States. It was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of American (Hungarian-born) Joseph Pulitzer who had made his fortune as a newspaper publisher, and is administered by Columbia University in New York City. Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories. In twenty of the categories, each winner receives a certificate and a US$15,000 cash award. The winner in the public service category of the journalism competition is awarded a gold medal.

Autobiography biography written by the subject

An autobiography is a self-written account of the life of oneself. The word "autobiography" was first used deprecatingly by William Taylor in 1797 in the English periodical The Monthly Review, when he suggested the word as a hybrid, but condemned it as "pedantic". However, its next recorded use was in its present sense, by Robert Southey in 1809. Despite only being named early in the nineteenth century, first-person autobiographical writing originates in antiquity. Roy Pascal differentiates autobiography from the periodic self-reflective mode of journal or diary writing by noting that "[autobiography] is a review of a life from a particular moment in time, while the diary, however reflective it may be, moves through a series of moments in time". Autobiography thus takes stock of the autobiographer's life from the moment of composition. While biographers generally rely on a wide variety of documents and viewpoints, autobiography may be based entirely on the writer's memory. The memoir form is closely associated with autobiography but it tends, as Pascal claims, to focus less on the self and more on others during the autobiographer's review of his or her life.

<i>Growing Up</i> (memoir) memoir by Russell Baker

Growing Up is a 1982 memoir by author and journalist Russell Baker. An autobiography chronicling Baker's youth in Virginia and his mother's strength of character during the Great Depression, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography in 1983.

Contents

Background

Born in Loudoun County, Virginia, [3] Baker was the son of Benjamin Rex Baker and Lucy Elizabeth (née Robinson). [4] At the age of eleven, as a self-professed "bump on a log," Baker decided to become a writer since he figured "what writers did couldn't even be classified as work." [5] After leaving school, he took a scholarship to Johns Hopkins University in 1942, studying for a year before leaving to join the Navy as a trainee pilot. He left in 1945, continuing his degree in English at Johns Hopkins University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1947.

Loudoun County, Virginia County in the United States

Loudoun County is located in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. In 2018, the population was estimated at 406,850, making it Virginia's third-most populous county. Loudoun County's seat is Leesburg. Loudoun County is part of the Washington–Arlington–Alexandria, DC–VA–MD–WV Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Johns Hopkins University Private research university in Baltimore, Maryland

Johns Hopkins University is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1876, the university was named for its first benefactor, the American entrepreneur, abolitionist, and philanthropist Johns Hopkins. His $7 million bequest —of which half financed the establishment of Johns Hopkins Hospital—was the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the United States up to that time. Daniel Coit Gilman, who was inaugurated as the institution's first president on February 22, 1876, led the university to revolutionize higher education in the U.S. by integrating teaching and research. Adopting the concept of a graduate school from Germany's ancient Heidelberg University, Johns Hopkins University is considered the first research university in the United States. Over the course of several decades, the university has led all U.S. universities in annual research and development expenditures. In fiscal year 2016, Johns Hopkins spent nearly $2.5 billion on research.

Career

Journalism

Shortly after leaving college, Baker took a job at The Baltimore Sun as a night police reporter, working his way up to be sent to London as a correspondent for the paper in 1952, and then White House Correspondent shortly thereafter. [3]

<i>The Baltimore Sun</i> daily broadsheet newspaper in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, United States

The Baltimore Sun is the largest general-circulation daily newspaper based in the American state of Maryland and provides coverage of local and regional news, events, issues, people, and industries. Founded in 1837, the newspaper is owned by Tribune Publishing.

Correspondent journalist contributing reports from a remote location

A correspondent or on-the-scene reporter is usually a journalist or commentator for magazines, or more speaking, an agent who contributes reports to a newspaper, or radio or television news, or another type of company, from a remote, often distant, location. A foreign correspondent is stationed in a foreign country. The term "Correspondent" refers to the original practice of filing news reports via postal letter. The largest networks of correspondents belong to ARD (Germany) and BBC (UK).

Columnist

After covering the White House, United States Congress, and the United States Department of State for The New York Times for eight years, Baker wrote the nationally syndicated Observer column for the newspaper from 1962 to 1998; initially oriented toward politics, the column began to encompass other subjects after he relocated to New York City in 1974. During his long career as an essayist, journalist, and biographer, he was a regular contributor to national periodicals such as The New York Times Magazine , Sports Illustrated , The Saturday Evening Post , and McCalls . He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993. [6]

White House Official residence and workplace of the President of the United States

The White House is the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States. It is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. and has been the residence of every U.S. president since John Adams in 1800. The term "White House" is often used as a metonym for the president and his advisers.

United States Congress Legislature of the United States

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the Federal Government of the United States, and consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.. Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct election, though vacancies in the Senate may be filled by a gubernatorial appointment. Congress has 535 voting members: 435 representatives and 100 senators. The House of Representatives has six non-voting members representing Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia in addition to its 435 voting members. Although they cannot vote in the full house, these members can address the house, sit and vote in congressional committees, and introduce legislation.

United States Department of State United States federal executive department responsible for foreign affairs

The United States Department of State (DOS), commonly referred to as the State Department, is a federal executive department that is equivalent to the foreign ministry of other countries, advising the U.S. President on foreign policy and conducting international relations. It was established in 1789 as the nation's first executive department.

Writer

Baker wrote or edited seventeen books. Baker's first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to him for distinguished commentary for his Observer columns (1979) and the second one was for his autobiography, Growing Up (1982); he is one of only six people to have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for both Arts & Letters (for his autobiography) and Journalism (for his column). He wrote a sequel to his autobiography in 1989, called The Good Times. His other works include An American in Washington (1961), No Cause for Panic (1964), Poor Russell’s Almanac (1972), Looking Back: Heroes, Rascals, and Other Icons of the American Imagination (2002), and various anthologies of his columns. [7] He edited the anthologies The Norton Book of Light Verse (1986) and Russell Baker's Book of American Humor (1993).

Baker wrote the libretto for the 1979 musical play Home Again, Home Again, starring Ronny Cox, with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Barbara Fried, [8] choreography by Onna White, and direction by Gene Saks. [9] After an unsuccessful tryout at the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut, the show closed in Toronto and never made it to Broadway. "That was a great experience," Baker said in a 1994 interview with the Hartford Courant. "Truly dreadful, but fun. I was sorry [the show] folded because I was having such a good time. But once is enough." [10]

Ronny Cox American actor and musician

Daniel Ronald Cox is an American actor, singer-songwriter, and storyteller. His best-known roles include Drew Ballinger in Deliverance (1972), George Apple in Apple's Way (1974–75), Lieutenant Andrew Bogomil in Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Richard "Dick" Jones in RoboCop (1987), and Vilos Cohaagen in Total Recall (1990). He plays over 100 shows at festivals and theaters each year with his band.

Cy Coleman American musician

Cy Coleman was an American composer, songwriter, and jazz pianist.

Onna White was a Canadian choreographer and dancer, nominated for eight Tony Awards.

Television host and narrator

In 1993, Baker replaced Alistair Cooke as the regular host of the PBS television series Masterpiece Theatre . "That's talking-head stuff," he said. "Television is harder than I thought it was. I can't bear to look at myself. I fancied that I was an exceedingly charming, witty and handsome young man, and here's this fidgeting old fellow whose hair is parted on the wrong side." [11]

In 1995, he narrated the Ric Burns documentary The Way West for PBS' American Experience. [12] [13]

Personal life and death

In 1950, Baker married Miriam Nash, who died in 2015. The couple had four children, Allen, Kasia, Michael, and Phyllis. [1]

Baker died at his home in Leesburg, Virginia, on January 21, 2019, after complications following a fall. [3] He was 93.

Legacy

Neil Postman, in the preface to Conscientious Objections, described Baker as "like some fourth century citizen of Rome who is amused and intrigued by the Empire's collapse but who still cares enough to mock the stupidities that are hastening its end. He is, in my opinion, a precious national resource, and as long as he does not get his own television show, America will remain stronger than Russia." (1991, xii)

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References

  1. 1 2 Campbell, Colin (January 22, 2019). "Baltimore-raised Pulitzer Prize winner Russell Baker dies at 93". Baltimore Sun . Baltimore, MD. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  2. Terry Eastland, ed. Forbes Media Guide Five Hundred, 1994: A Critical Review of the Media (1994) p 275
  3. 1 2 3 McFadden, Robert D. (January 22, 2019). "Russell Baker, Pulitzer-Winning Times Columnist and Humorist, Dies at 93". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  4. Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, vol. 2, R. Reginald, 1979, pg 805
  5. "Russell Baker Takes on the 20th Century," The Washington Post , October 3, 1982.
  6. "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved May 9, 2011.
  7. "Russell Baker," Encyclopædia Britannica, britannica.com
  8. "Home Again, Home Again : CastAlbums.org". castalbums.org. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  9. Suskin, Steven, Show Tunes: The Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers, Fourth Edition, New York: Oxford University Press USA, 2010.
  10. "Russell Baker Speaks His Mind," The Hartford Courant, March 16, 1994
  11. Writer, Frank Rizzo; Courant Staff. "RUSSELL BAKER SPEAKS HIS MIND". courant.com. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  12. The Way West at imdb.com.
  13. Gary Edgerton, Ken Burns's America: Packaging the Past for Television. Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, 2001.
Preceded by
Alistair Cooke
Host of Masterpiece Theatre
1992–2004
Succeeded by
Gillian Anderson