Leonard Pitts Jr. to deliver UGA’s Grady College McGill Lecture

Athens, Ga. – Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. will deliver the 28th annual McGill Lecture on Wednesday, Nov. 1 on the University of Georgia campus.

The nationally-syndicated Miami Herald columnist will address “The Home of the Brave” at 4 p.m. in Room 102 of UGA’s Student Learning Center (SLC). Sponsored by UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the lecture is free and open to the public. A reception will follow in the SLC Reading Room.

Often called one of the most emotionally engaging newspaper columnists writing today, Pitts offers candid opinions on culture, race, families, relationships and the politics of the human condition.

The McGill Lecture honors the life and memory of Ralph McGill, the outspoken Southern journalist who fought persistently for civil rights during the ‘50s and ‘60s. Established in 1978, the annual lecture typically addresses equal rights, ethics and other major issues impacting the American press.

Pitts, 48, joined The Miami Herald in 1991 as its pop music critic. Since 1994, he has penned a syndicated column of commentary on pop culture, social issues and family life. His most recent book, Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood, was released in May 1999.

Pitts has been writing professionally since 1976 when, as an 18-year-old college student, he began doing freelance reviews and profiles for SOUL, a national black entertainment tabloid. Two years later, he was its editor. In the years since then, Pitts’ work has appeared in such publications as Musician, Spin, TV Guide, Reader’s Digest and Parenting. In addition, he wrote, produced and syndicated “Who We Are,” an award-winning 1988 radio documentary on the history of black America, and has written and produced numerous other radio programs on subjects as diverse as Madonna and Martin Luther King, Jr. Pitts was also a writer for radio’s popular countdown program, Casey’s Top 40 with Casey Kasem.

Pitts was awarded the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary and was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

Twice each week, millions of newspaper readers around the country read his words. Pitts has captivated readers for years with insightful, often highly personal, columns. His angry and defiant column on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks, entitled “We’ll Go Forward from this Moment,” drew a worldwide response and circulated the globe via the Internet. It generated upwards of 30,000 emails, and has since been set to music, reprinted in poster form, read on television by Regis Philbin and quoted by Congressman Richard Gephardt as part of the Democratic Party’s weekly radio address.

Writing, Pitts has noted, was his passion from a young age. “When I was 5 years old, I called myself a writer,” he said. “When I was 12 years old, I started sending things to magazines, which appropriately sent them back.”

Miami Herald executive editor Tom Fiedler said Pitts’ singular achievement is diving into “those issues that are really closest to us emotionally,” often reaching conclusions that challenge commonly held beliefs of those on both ends of the political spectrum.

“He can be tough and he can be tender,” Fiedler said. “Agree or not with his conclusions, you can’t read his columns without coming away smarter for the effort.”

In 1997, Pitts took first place for commentary in division four (newspapers with a circulation of over 300,000) in the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors’ Ninth Annual Writing Awards competition. The Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, among others, have honored him.

He is a five-time recipient of the National Headliners Award. In 2001, he received the American Society of Newspaper Editors prestigious ASNE Award for Commentary Writing and was named Feature of the Year–Columnist by Editor and Publisher magazine. In 2002, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists awarded Pitts its inaugural Columnist of the Year award. Also in 2002, GLAAD Media awarded Pitts the Outstanding Newspaper Columnist award.

Pitts was born and raised in Southern California. Since 1995, he has lived in Bowie, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D. C., with his wife and five children.

Established in 1915, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication provides seven undergraduate majors including advertising, broadcast news, magazines, newspapers, public relations, publication management and telecommunication arts. The college offers two graduate degrees, and is home to the Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism and the Peabody Awards, considered the electronic broadcasting industry’s most prestigious prize. For more information, visit www.grady.uga.edu.