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Columnist to discuss race relations

March 18, 2008

Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. will present “Race, Politics and the Drama of Obama” for the 2008 A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations at Arizona State University. The lecture will be at 7 p.m., April 7 in Gammage Auditorium on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Pitts joined the Miami Herald in 1991 as its pop music critic. Since 1994, he has achieved success as a syndicated columnist writing on the topics of pop culture, social issues and family life. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

Among other honors, Pitts received the prestigious American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for Commentary Writing in 2001, was named Feature of the Year Columnist by Editor and Publisher magazine in 2001 and was named Columnist of the Year by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists in 2002. His book “Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood” was released in 1999. He also wrote and produced “Who We Are,” the award-winning 1988 radio documentary on the history of black America.

Pitts, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California, began writing professionally at age 18. As a college student he wrote for SOUL, a national black entertainment magazine. Two years later, he was its editor.

Pitts was the Scripps Visiting Professional at Ohio University and at Hampton University in Virginia. He also was the Virginius Dabney Distinguished Professor of Journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The annual A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations honors the memory and life work of its namesake. Smith, a former ASU professor and chair of sociology, worked tirelessly to improve race relations on campus and in the Valley. He also chaired the ASU Campus Environment Team.

After his death in 1995, Smith’s friends and family, with support from ASU and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, established the lecture series in order to improve race relations on campus and within the greater community.

The A. Wade Smith Community Award for Advancement of Race Relations also will be presented at the lecture to an Arizona resident whose efforts contributed to the improvement of race relations in the community. The award recipient is chosen based on demonstrated leadership and courage in the advancement of race relations. Previous recipients include Elsie Moore, Betty and Jean Fairfax, and Raner C. Collins.

The lecture is free and open to the public, though tickets are required and available online at or at ASU Bookstores. Additional information is available at ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, (480) 965-1441.

Ashley Lange,
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences