Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Haynes Johnson dies

May 25, 2013 at 10:21 PM
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BETHESDA, Md., May 25 (UPI) -- Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Haynes Johnson has died in Bethesda, Md., of a heart attack, his wife said. He was 81.

The former Washington Post journalist, who won acclaim for his coverage of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, died Friday at Suburban Hospital, his wife, District of Columbia Court of Appeals Judge Kathryn Oberly, said.

Johnson began his career as a journalist in the 1950s after serving in the Army during the Korean War, the Post said. His first newspaper job was with the News-Journal in Wilmington, Del., before he took a job in 1957 with the Washington Star.

It was his civil rights coverage at the Star in 1966 that won him a Pulitzer Prize, making him and his father, Malcolm Johnson, the first father-son pair ever to win the award.

"My father couldn't believe it," Haynes Johnson told United Press International in 1966, describing his win. "I'm really more pleased for him than for myself."

Malcolm Johnson had won his prize in 1949 for a New York Sun series "Crime on the Waterfront," which was adapted for the Oscar-winning 1954 film "On the Waterfront."

Johnson took a job at the Post in 1969, where he turned to political coverage, traversing the country and interviewing the public to gauge their thoughts, fears and hopes about the nation.

"Haynes was a pioneer in looking at the mood of the country to understand a political race," former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie said in an interview. "Haynes was going around the country talking to people, doing portraits and finding out what was on people's minds. He was a kind of profiler of the country."

Johnson wrote several books about U.S. politics, and even co-authored a spy thriller.

His most celebrated book, "Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years," analyzed the United States under the presidency of Ronald Reagan, offering a critical look at the president and Congress.

Johnson is survived by Oberly, of Washington; five children from his first marriage; a stepson; a sister; two brothers; and six grandchildren, the Post reported.

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