RIP: Claude Sitton

NYT Southern regional correspondent set the standard for Civil Rights Movement coverage.

TheRaceBeatBookCoverVery few journalists are able to leave behind a legacy as powerful as this. From today’s New York Times obituary for Claude Sitton, who passed away Tuesday in Atlanta at the age of 89:

When Turner Catledge, the Mississippi-born managing editor of the Times, chose Mr. Sitton to cover the South in 1958, “he was about to set in motion a level of reporting that would establish the national standard for two decades,” Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff wrote in 2006 in their Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Awakening of a Nation. (Mr. Roberts was himself a managing editor of the Times.)

“Nobody in the news business,” the authors continued, “would have as much impact as he would – on the reporting of the civil rights movement, on the federal government’s response or on the movement itself. Sitton’s byline would be atop the stories that landed on the desks of three presidents.”

After authoring more than 900 articles on the civil rights beat between May 1958 and October 1964, Sitton was promoted at the Times to national news editor and would later win a Pulitzer Prize for his work as a News & Observer columnist. Read the Raleigh paper’s obituary, topped by a great photo of Sitton, here. RIP.

[Jacket cover courtesy: Vintage]