Russell Wayne Baker

portrait of Russell 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.

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