Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist William Raspberry died Tuesday at his Washington D.C. home. He was 76.
The cause of death, according to an obituary in the Washington Post, was prostate cancer.
His writings on everything from gay rights to gun control appeared in the Washington Post for nearly 40 years and in more than 200 newspapers across the country. He retired from the paper in 2005.
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Although he routinely took on hot-button topics, Raspberry tried to steer clear of a rancorous style, preferring to take a more decorous approach to public debate.
In one of his final columns at the Post, he decried the partisanship routinely on display on cable news and broadcast programs, saying that it exacerbated divisions in America.
"Can it be that trying to see the other guy's side simply takes too much of our time and energy?" Raspberry asked. "Sometimes I suspect that the desire to savage rather than convince an opponent stems from the nagging suspicion that just maybe we are on the wrong side of the logic. I mean, if you are convinced that your position is the correct one, why wouldn't you want to examine it and explain it in a way that might win a convert or two?"
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An African American who came off age at a time when most major newsrooms stubbornly remained racially homogeneous, Raspberry became a leading voice on issues like civil rights. Education, the University of Indianapolis graduate argued, would be the great social equalizer.
Reflecting on Obama's White House victory in a 2008 guest column in the Post, Raspberry argued that the country's first African American president did not signal that America was now embracing a post-racial future as some had optimistically argued. Instead, he maintained that Obama's election could stand as a powerful example to black children, because it represented a triumph of confidence and ability.
"His ascendancy to the most powerful political position in the world does not mean an end to black problems -- including the problem of racial discrimination," Raspberry wrote. "But it may allow our children to begin to see life as a series of problems and possibilities and not just a list of grievances."
Raspberry joined the Post as a teletypist in 1962, after a stint at the Indianapolis Recorder and in the U.S. Navy. He would be named a columnist in 1966, going on to win the Pulitzer in that category in 1994.
In addition to his writing career, Raspberry was president of the parent training program "Baby Steps."
He is survived by his wife, Sondra Dodson Raspberry; three children, Patricia D. Raspberry, Mark J. Raspberry and Angela Raspberry Jackson; a foster son, Reginald Harrison; and his mother, Willie Mae Tucker Raspberry.