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Russell Baker

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Title: Russell Baker  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Growing Up (memoir), Masterpiece (TV series), Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, Charles Peters, Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography
Collection: 1925 Births, American Essayists, American Humorists, American Memoirists, American Television Personalities, Baltimore City College Alumni, Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, George Polk Award Recipients, Johns Hopkins University Alumni, Living People, Members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, People from Belleville, New Jersey, People from Loudoun County, Virginia, Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography Winners, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary Winners, The New York Times Columnists, Writers from Virginia
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Russell Baker

Russell Wayne Baker (born August 14, 1925) is an American writer known for his satirical commentary and self-critical prose, as well as for his Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography Growing Up (1982).


  • Career 1
    • Writing and editing 1.1
    • Other activities 1.2
  • Praise and criticism 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Writing and editing

At the age of eleven, as a self-professed "bump on a log," Baker decided to become a writer since he figured "what writers did couldn't even be classified as work." He went on to become an essayist, journalist, and biographer, as well as the host of the PBS show Masterpiece Theatre from 1992 to 2004. Baker wrote the nationally syndicated "Observer" column for The New York Times from 1962 to 1998. During his long career, he was a regular contributor to national periodicals such as The New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated, The Saturday Evening Post, and McCalls. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993.[1]

Baker wrote or edited seventeen books. Baker's first Pulitzer was for distinguished commentary for his "Observer" columns (1979) and the second one was for his autobiography, Growing Up (1982). He wrote a sequel to his autobiography in 1989, called The Good Times. His other works include An American in Washington (1961), No Cause for Panic (1964), Poor Russell’s Almanac (1972), Looking Back: Heroes, Rascals, and Other Icons of the American Imagination (2002), and various anthologies of his columns.[2] He edited the anthologies The Norton Book of Light Verse (1986) and Russell Baker's Book of American Humor (1993).

Other activities

Baker wrote the libretto for the 1979 musical play Home Again, Home Again, starring Ronny Cox, with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Barbara Fried,[3] choreography by Onna White, and direction by Gene Saks.[4] After an unsuccessful tryout at the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut, the show closed in Toronto and never made it to Broadway. "That was a great experience," Baker said in a 1994 interview with the Hartford Courant. "Truly dreadful, but fun. I was sorry [the show] folded because I was having such a good time. But once is enough."[5]

In 1993, Baker replaced Alistair Cooke as the regular host of the PBS television series Masterpiece Theatre. "That's talking-head stuff," he said. "Television is harder than I thought it was. I can't bear to look at myself. I fancied that I was an exceedingly charming, witty and handsome young man, and here's this fidgeting old fellow whose hair is parted on the wrong side."[6]

Praise and criticism

Neil Postman, in the preface to Conscientious Objections, describes Baker as "like some fourth century citizen of Rome who is amused and intrigued by the Empire's collapse but who still cares enough to mock the stupidities that are hastening its end. He is, in my opinion, a precious national resource, and as long as he does not get his own television show, America will remain stronger than Russia." (1991, xii)


  1. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  2. ^ britannica.comEncyclopaedia Britannica,"Russell Baker,"
  3. ^ "Home Again, Home Again,"
  4. ^ Fourth Edition, New York: Oxford University Press USA, 2010.Show Tunes: The Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers,Suskin, Steven,
  5. ^ March 16, 1994The Hartford Courant,"Russell Baker Speaks His Mind,"
  6. ^ Ibid.

External links

Preceded by
Alistair Cooke
Host of Masterpiece Theatre
Succeeded by
Gillian Anderson
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