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Former UPI reporter, Pulitzer winner Lucinda Franks dies at 74

Lucinda Franks, a former UPI reporter who won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 1971, died Wednesday at the age of 74. File Photo courtesy of Lucinda Franks
Lucinda Franks, a former UPI reporter who won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 1971, died Wednesday at the age of 74. File Photo courtesy of Lucinda Franks

May 6 (UPI) -- Former United Press International journalist Lucinda Franks, the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, has died in New York, her family announced Thursday. She was 74.

Her family told The New York Times that the cause of her death Wednesday was cancer. A resident of Manhattan, Franks spent her final months at her late husband's family home in Hopewell Junction, The Washington Post reported.

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In addition to being the first woman to win the Pulitzer for reporting, at 24, she also was the youngest, nabbing the coveted prize in 1971 for her coverage of the Weathermen, a domestic terror organization made up of young, mostly rich, mostly college-educated members bent on taking down the federal government. The group had grown out of widespread hatred for the government in response to the Vietnam War.

Franks shared the award with UPI reporter Thomas Powers, who did research while she did the boots-on-the-ground reporting. Their five-part series told the story of a young woman in the group, Diana Oughton, who accidentally blew herself up making bombs in a New York townhouse.

RELATED UPI Archives: Pulitzer-winning UPI reporter recalls domestic terrorism of '70s

Franks began her career as a so-called "coffee girl" with UPI in 1968, and was allowed to write news on her own time.

The agency sent her to London to cover beauty pageants, when civil war broke out in Northern Ireland. At the time, UPI rules didn't allow women to cover war zones, but she convinced her editor it would be too late to wait for them to send a man to replace her and they allowed her to cover the Troubles.

Back in New York City, the self-avowed hippy impressed her editors, who eventually nominated her Weathermen series for the Pulitzer.

RELATED UPI Archives: UPI Pulitzer Prizes: The stories behind the pictures and words

In an interview with UPI to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes in 2016, she said her male colleagues in the newsroom were less than enthralled with her win.

"The day after the announcement, I strode in to the office expecting a few claps on the back, but instead, there was dead silence," she recalled. "Nobody even looked up. Nobody said a thing. They just ignored me."

Franks said she kept quiet about her win due to the newsroom reception and out of misplaced guilt for winning so early in career.

RELATED UPI Archives: Story of Diana Oughton -- The Making of a Terrorist, Part 1

Later, "after rereading it, I realized it was a damn good story and I did deserve to win the Pulitzer," she said.

She said the prize opened doors for her career, including a stint as an investigative reporter for The New York Times, then for the New Yorker. She also authored six books.

Franks was predeceased by her husband, Robert Morgenthau, New York County's district attorney for over 30 years. He died in July 2019 at the age of 99.

She's survived by their two children, Joshua Franks Morgenthau and Amy Elinor Morgenthau.

Notable deaths of 2021

Jim Fassel
New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel watches the Detroit Lions defeat his team, the New York Giants, at in East Rutherford, N.J., on November 19, 2000. The former Super Bowl-winning coach died on June 8 at the age of 71. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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