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For the investigative journalist, see Russ Baker

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

Early years

Baker was the eldest of three children born to Benny and Lucy Elizabeth Baker in Morrisonville, Virginiamarker. After his father died when he was just a young child, his family moved to Belleville, New Jerseymarker, and later to urban Baltimoremarker where he graduated from the Baltimore City Collegemarker high school in 1943 and received his B.A. from the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in 1947. 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. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Russell Baker, was the author of the nationally syndicated "Observer" column for the New York Times from 1962 to 1998. In addition, the noted journalist, humorist, essayist, and biographer has written 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 (1983). He wrote a sequel to his autobiography in 1989, called The Good Times.

In addition to his regular column and numerous books, Baker has also edited the anthologies The Norton Book of Light Verse (1986) and Russell Baker's Book of American Humor (1993). In 1993, he became the regular host of the PBS television series, Masterpiece Theatre. Baker is a regular contributor to national periodicals such as The New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Saturday Evening Post, and McCalls.


Neil Postman, in the preface to Conscientious Objections, describes Baker as " 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) He received his Pulitzer Prizes for his New York Times "Observer" column, and for his memoir, entitled Growing Up.

Notable quotations

  • "The goal of all inanimate objects is to resist man and ultimately defeat him." A contribution to the philosophy of Resistentialism

  • "The worst thing about being a tourist is having other tourists recognize you as a tourist."

  • "Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things."

  • "Reporters thrive on the world's misfortune. For this reason they often take an indecent pleasure in events that dismay the rest of humanity."

  • "I gave up on new poetry myself thirty years ago, when most of it began to read like coded messages passing between lonely aliens on a hostile world."

  • "One of the many burdens of the person professing Christianity has always been the odium likely to be heaped upon him by fellow Christians quick to smell out, denounce and punish fraud, hypocrisy and general unworthiness among those who assert the faith. In ruder days, disputes about what constituted a fully qualified Christian often led to sordid quarrels in which the disputants tortured, burned and hanged each other in the conviction that torture, burning, and hanging were Christian things to do..."

  • "The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any."

  • "Voters inclined to loathe and fear elite Ivy League schools rarely make fine distinctions between Yale and Harvard. All they know is that both are full of rich, fancy, stuck-up and possibly dangerous intellectuals who never sit down to supper in their undershirt no matter how hot the weather gets."


  1. The Plot Against People, The New York Times 18 June 1968

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