Russell Wayne Baker
TIME magazine cover (4 June 1979)
Born: 14 August 1925, Morrisonville, Virginia
Baker's father died when Russell was five, poverty forced his mother to give up her second daughter for adoption. With his mother and sister he lived with family in New Jersey for a while before settling at Baltimore. After graduating from Baltimore City College high school he studied English Literature at Johns Hopkins University, writing for News-Letter and earning his bachelors degree in 1947. He started at The Baltimore Sun as a crime reporter and had a weekly column titled "From a Window on Fleet Street". He moved to the Washington City bureau of The New York Times in 1954, covering political news, then moved to the editorial page in 1962 and started his "Observer" column. His satirical columns, mostly on politics, was widely syndicated and ran until 1998, the longest-running column in Times history. He won his first Pulitzer for that column, his second was for Growing Up, his 1982 memoir of his nomadic depression-era youth. In 1993 Baker took over from Alistair Cooke as the host of PBS' Masterpiece Theatre, filling the armchair until 2004. He continues to contribute reviews to the New York Review of Books.
Additional quotes from Wikiquote. Wikiquote entries are "sourced" and may include items longer than those included here, particularly for poets, lyricists, and dramatists.
Russell Baker quotes:
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- A group of politicians deciding to dump a President because his morals are bad is like the Mafia getting together to bump off the Godfather for not going to church on Sunday. permalink
"The Morals Charge," The New York Times (14 May 1974)
- A railroad station? That was sort of a primitive airport, only you didn't have to take a cab twenty miles out of town to reach it. permalink
"Inside the Suit, a Man!," The New York Times (5 November 1986)
- A solved problem creates two new problems, and the best prescription for happy living is not to solve any more problems than you have to. permalink
"The Big Problem Binge," The New York Times (18 March 1965)
- Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it. permalink
- All politicians are humble, and seldom let you forget it. They go around the country boasting about their humility. They are proud of their humility. Many are downright arrogant about their humility and insist that it qualifies them to be President. permalink
"The Big Town", So This Is Depravity (1980)
- An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious — just dead wrong. permalink
- Anticipating that most poetry will be worse than carrying heavy luggage through O'Hare Airport, the public, to its loss, reads very little of it. permalink
- As in some primitive ritual, we all agree — candidates and onlookers — to pretend we are involved in a debate, although the real exercise is a test of style and manners. Which of the competitors can better execute the intricate maneuvers prescribed by a largely irrelevant ritual? permalink
"And All of Us So Cool", There's a Country in My Cellar (1990)
- By the age of six the average child will have completed the basic American education.... From television, the child will have learned how to pick a lock, commit a fairly elaborate bank holdup, prevent wetness all day long, get the laundry twice as white, and kill people with a variety of sophisticated armaments. permalink
- Children rarely want to know who their parents were before they were parents, and when age finally stirs their curiosity, there is no parent left to tell them. permalink
- Don't try to make children grow up to be like you, or they may do it. permalink
- Goat cheese ... produced a bizarre eating era when sensible people insisted that this miserable cheese produced by these miserable creatures reared on miserable hardscrabble earth was actually superior to the magnificent creamy cheeses of the noblest dairy animals bred in the richest green valleys of the earth. permalink
- I frankly admit to not knowing who I am. This is why I refuse to buy clothes that will tell people who I want them to think I am. permalink
"Talking Clothes", So This Is Depravity (1980)
- I gave up on new poetry myself thirty years ago, when most of it began to read like coded messages passing between lonely aliens on a hostile world. permalink
- I worry about people who get born nowadays, because they get born into such tiny families, sometimes into no family at all. When you're the only pea in the pod, your parents are likely to get you confused with the Hope Diamond. And that encourages you to talk too much. permalink
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