Russell Baker, a Baltimore-raised, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, essayist and biographer who hosted the series “Masterpiece Theatre” on PBS and had a long-running column in The New York Times, died at his Leesburg, Va., home Monday, his son said.
The cause of death, which followed a recent fall, was unknown, said son Allen Baker, of New York. Mr. Baker was 93.
Mr. Baker was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for his commentary and a second in 1982 for his autobiography, “Growing Up,” a memoir of his childhood in the Great Depression. He was born in Virginia and spent his early years there before his family moved to New Jersey and then Baltimore.
Mr. Baker was as great of a patriarch as he was a writer, Allen Baker said.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better father,” Allen Baker said Tuesday. “He was a tender and loving man to his family. … He was just a Regular Joe with an extraordinary job.”
Mr. Baker was born Aug. 14, 1925, and graduated from Baltimore City College in 1942. He enrolled at the Johns Hopkins University, then put his education on hold to enlist in the U.S. Navy in 1943 to serve during World War II.
Mr. Baker completed a bachelor’s degree at Hopkins in 1947, his son said. He married the former Miriam Nash, in Baltimore in 1950. The pair had four children; Mrs. Baker died in 2015.
Mr. Baker’s journalism career began as a police reporter at The Baltimore Sun in 1947 and 1948, and he made his way to the newspaper’s London bureau at age 27.
“His work there caught the eye of James ‘Scotty’ Reston, then running the New York Times' Washington bureau,” The Sun said in a 1999 article. “Bored with reporting, he was given the column in 1962. He was 37.”
He was a New York Times columnist until announcing his retirement on Christmas Day, 1998 — a 36-year run that made him the longest-running columnist in the history of the paper of record.
“Don't make too much of it,” he joked in the 1999 interview with The Sun. “It's only daily journalism.”
In addition to his son Allen, Mr. Baker is survived by a sister and three children, Kasia Baker, of Nantucket, Mass.; Michael Baker, of Morrisonville, Va.; and Phyllis Baker, of Morrisonville, Va.; as well as four granddaughters.