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William Raspberry dies at 76; prize-winning columnist

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William Raspberry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post and one of the most widely read black journalists of his generation, has died. He was 76.

Raspberry, who had prostate cancer, died Tuesday at his home in Washington, D.C., his wife, Sondra, told the Post.

Raspberry, who grew up in segregated Mississippi, wrote an opinion column for the Post for nearly 40 years, and more than 200 newspapers carried his column in syndication. It ran in The Times from 1968 to 1988. He retired in 2005.

He won the Pulitzer for commentary in 1994, becoming the second black columnist to achieve the honor. His winning columns covered topics including urban violence, the legacies of civil rights leaders and female genital mutilation in Africa.

Raspberry started at the Post in 1962 as a teletype operator and began working as a reporter within months. In 1965, he covered the Watts riots and a year later began writing a column on local matters.

At the time, the only nationally syndicated black columnist in the mainstream media was Carl Rowan. Raspberry's column moved to the Post's op-ed page in 1970.

"Bill Raspberry inspired a rising generation of African American columnists and commentators who followed in his path, including me," said Clarence Page, a Pulitzer-winning columnist with the Chicago Tribune.

Although he considered himself a liberal, Raspberry took moderate, nuanced positions on issues including civil rights and gun control that drew criticism from both the right and the left. He said he was especially concerned with the problems of ordinary people.

Raspberry taught journalism for more than 10 years at Duke University.

The son of two teachers, Raspberry was born Oct. 12, 1935, in the northeastern Mississippi town of Okolona. He attended Indiana Central College, now the University of Indianapolis, and joined the Post after a stint as a public information officer with the Army.

Survivors include his wife of 45 years, three children, a foster son, a sister, a brother and his 106-year-old mother.

news.obits@latimes.com

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