Russell Baker, Pulitzer-Winning Columnist, Dies.


January 27, 2019 | By Joe Motheral |

A past member of the National Press Club, Russell Baker, 93, passed away on January 21 at his home in Leesburg, VA, attended by close family members.

Baker grew up in Loudoun County. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University he began his career as a journalist. That took him and his wife Mimi to Baltimore, New York, Washington DC and London and he covered presidents and the Senate among other illustrious assignments.

His credits include a Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times column entitled the “Observer” and his book “Growing Up,” about his life as a youngster in Loudoun County, earned him a second Pulitzer. The NPC honored him with the Fourth Estate award in 1989. He was 12 years “Masterpiece Theater” host.

With all of this, some 30-plus years ago he and his wife Mimi returned to his roots and bought a house in downtown Leesburg. He had gone into semi-retirement while still plying his craft occasionally for the New York Review of Books.

He once represented his good friend, David Halberstam, author of “The Coldest Winter” at the Press Club’s annual Book Fair. Halberstam had died in an automobile accident.

In 2007, he attended a book rap featuring James Reston Jr.’s book on the Frost/Nixon interviews. Reston’s father, Scotty Reston, had been the New York Times bureau chief, with Baker as one of his journalists. He and James were in a conversation after the event. The Press Club photographer came up to me and asked, “is that Russell Baker?”

“Yes,” I said, “Would you like to meet him?”

“Oh, I already know him. He was the only one who sent me a thank you note after I had taken his photo when he won the Fourth Estate Award,” the photographer said.

The family has opted for no memorial service. Instead, they have designated Baker’s high school — Baltimore City College — to be the recipient of any donations on his behalf.

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