Russell Wayne Baker became one of the best-known and well-respected writers of humor in the United States through his wry observations of everything from politics to rural life. His column in The New York Times, “The Observer,” enjoyed enormous success, running for several decades and garnering numerous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize. Baker also won a Pulitzer for the autobiographical Growing Up.
Baker was born in Morrisonville, Virginia, in 1925 to Benjamin and Lucy Baker. His father died of diabetes when Baker was five years old, at which time his mother sent his youngest sister to live with relatives while she took the two older children to find a financially stable future. Russell, his mother, and his other sister moved to several places in Virginia, New Jersey, and Maryland. Eventually, with the help of relatives, Baltimore became a home to Lucy Baker and her children.
After a two-year service in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1943 to 1945, Russell Baker attended The Johns Hopkins University and got his first writing job, for the Baltimore Sun, in 1947. He married Miriam Emily Nash on March 11, 1950, and they had three children, Kathleen, Allen, and Michael.
Baker worked for a time in London, writing a weekly column for the Sun entitled “From a Window on Fleet Street,” and in 1954 he was hired by The New York Times to be a staff reporter covering the White House, Congress, and the State Department. He reported on political activities in Washington for the next several years, until he decided to leave political reporting.
The New York Times offered him his own column as an incentive to stay. His first piece,...
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