Renowned Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner William J. Raspberry, 76, was remembered for his generous spirit and strong journalistic voice during his funeral service at the National Cathedral in Northwest on July 26.
During the two-hour service, which was attended by thousands, Washington Post chairman Donald Graham, Vernon Jordan, a close friend of Raspberry, Dorothy Gilliam who worked alongside him at The Washington Post, and his children described the pioneering journalist as a family man who loved his city and his profession.
"Generosity was at the heart of Bill Raspberry," said Graham, who noted that his colleague had won his Pulitzer 25 years later than he should have.
"But that was one of the least important [accomplishments] for him," Graham said. "He had a strong voice at The Washington Post ... He believed journalists should root for the success of their city. No one ever told him what to say, and he never modified an opinion to please his boss."
Further alluding to Raspberry's passion for reporting racial injustices that frequently took place in the South where he was born and raised, Graham added that, "He walked into the gigantic story of civil rights in the 1960s, and for 40 years told that story [with stark accuracy]."
Graham went on to say that Raspberry was a "scathing critic" of his profession and that through him, many of his Post colleagues "learned how to think, write and listen."
Jordan, who serves as senior counsel for the Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Field law group in Northwest, remembered his friend for his quiet, moral leadership and fierce commitment to educating people – young and old.
"Education was very important to Bill. He was a brave and intrepid pioneer," said Jordan. "He had a gift for the subtle sermon. His writings were always provocative but seldom predictable," he said. "[His wife] Sondra loved him and he had the good sense to love her back."
Gilliam reflected on Raspberry's knack for loosening things up in the newsroom.
"He was cool, relaxed and accessible to everyone," said Gilliam, director of Prime Movers Media at George Washington University. "He had a big influence on people in the newsroom [where] he was dedicated to improving quality," Gilliam said, adding that she was impressed by both Raspberry's prowess as a writer and prowess in the newsroom.
Raspberry's four grown children recalled the lessons he'd taught them.
While Patricia, his oldest daughter, described her father as a "magician" who could make the moon change to any color she wanted, and that he instilled in her that "being smart was a pretty special thing."
His youngest son Mark, recalled countless conversations with his dad at home, "down in the man-cave." Mark described him as "beautiful, wise and inspirational."
Angela, hailed her father as a "remarkable and phenomenal" man who got one of his best ideas for a column from her. It involved a story she told him about elephants in South Africa that he later paralleled with inner-city black males, she said.
"It was one of his most powerful pieces and he never gave me the credit," Angela joked, triggering a hearty round of laughter in the sanctuary.
Oldest son Reggie, who said Raspberry was "a great proponent of education," credited him with helping to turn his life around after he veered off course during his younger days, by returning to college.
"I was like the prodigal son," he said, adding that at both parents' urging, he had to take "baby steps" to get back on track.
"I'll always love you for that," Reggie said, looking directly at his father's closed coffin.