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William Raspberry, black Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, dies of prostate cancer aged 76

The Washington Post columnist — one of the first black journalists to gain a widespread following — inspired a generation of African-American commentators.

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Postal activists demonstrate in front of the Washington Post offices June 27, 2012 in Washington, DC. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

William Raspberry, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist — and one of the first black journalists to gain a wide following in the mainstream press — has died aged 76.

Raspberry, a columnist for The Washington Post who retired in 2005, had prostate cancer, the Associated Press reported.

He died at his home in Washington, his wife, Sondra Raspberry, told the Post, for whom Raspberry wrote an opinion column for nearly 40 years.

Raspberry won the 1994 Pulitzer for commentary, only the second black columnist to receive the prize.

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

IndyStar.com wrote that after a stint in the Army as a public information officer, Raspberry landed a job at the Post in 1962 as a teletype operator.

After moving into reporting, he rose to prominence covering the riots in the Watts section of Los Angeles in 1965. He began writing a column a year later and was moved to the Post’s op-ed page in 1970.

According to the Washington Post, more than 200 newspapers carried Raspberry's syndicated columns, which were heavily influenced by his upbringing in Mississippi during the Deep South's years of segregation and brutal racism.

Among the many topics he wrote about were female genital mutilation in Africa, urban violence the American civil rights movement.

In its obit, the Post wrote that:

"Instead of following other pundits to Capitol Hill, Mr. Raspberry looked at another side of Washington: the problems facing ordinary people, sometimes voiced through an imaginary D.C. cabdriver — simply called 'the cabbie' — who was a recurring figure in his columns."

Further, the Post wrote, while Raspberry considered himself a liberal, he "often bucked many of the prevailing pieties of liberal orthodoxy. He favored integration but opposed busing children to achieve racial balance. He supported gun control but — during a time when the District seemed to be a free-fire zone for drug sellers — he could understand the impulse to shoot back."

The son of two teachers, Raspberry credited his parents for instilling a belief that he could rise above his environment.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120718/william-raspberry-dies-pulitzer-prize-journalist