By Stewart Stewart
Alive on SouthBeach
Way back, as a five year old, when John F. Kennedy was still in the White House and “Whites Only” signs were still on the walls, LEONARD PITTS, JR. knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.
In a career that now spans 43 years, Leonard Pitts, Jr. has worked as a columnist, a college professor, a radio producer and a lecturer. But those are just the job titles. If you ask him what he does – what he is – he’ll tell you now what he would have told you then.
He is a writer.
Millions of people are glad he is. They read him every week in one of the most popular newspaper columns in the country. Many more have come to know him through a series of critically-acclaimed books, including his latest, a novel of race, faith and World War II called The Last Thing You Surrender.
Pitts’ stubborn devotion to the art and craft of words has yielded many awards, chief among them the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
His column on the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, “We’ll Go Forward From This Moment,” 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.
Taken directly from his official biography, “Leonard Pitts, Jr. is a three-time recipient of the National Association of Black Journalists’ Award of Excellence, and was chosen NABJ’s 2008 Journalist of the Year. He is a five-time recipient of the Atlantic City Press Club’s National Headliners Award and a seven-time recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Green Eyeshade Award. In 2001, he received the American Society of Newspaper Editors prestigious Award For Commentary Writing and was named Feature of the Year in the column writing division by Editor and Publisher magazine. In 2002, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists awarded Pitts its inaugural Columnist of the Year award; in 2016, it named him to its Hall of Fame. In 2002 and in 2009, GLAAD Media awarded Pitts the Outstanding Newspaper Columnist award. In 2017, he was awarded the prestigious Missouri Honor Medal for “distinguished service to journalism.” He has received four honorary doctorates.