Roger Wilkins was born in 1932 in Kansas City, Missouri. His father, a business manager with a prominent black paper, The Kansas City Call, died when Wilkins was a child and the family moved to New York and then to Michigan, where Wilkins spent most of his formative years.
Wilkins attended the University of Michigan, receiving his B.A. in 1953 and his J.D. in 1956, interning with Thurgood Marshall at the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund. Following graduation, Wilkins worked in several capacities as an advocate for justice. Beginning his career as a caseworker in the Ohio Welfare Department, Wilkins went on to work for the U.S. Agency for International Development and then as assistant attorney general under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Wilkins' interest in legal issues and equality stems partially from his family's background. His uncle, Roy Wilkins, was executive secretary of the NAACP from 1955 to 1977.
However, Wilkins is perhaps best known for his role in exposing Watergate in the ‘70s—a feat that earned him the Pulitzer Prize along with Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Hal Herblock.
Currently a network radio commentator for NPR and the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History and American Culture at George Mason University, Wilkins has had a distinguished career that has spanned government, law, philanthropy, and journalism. He has authored two books, written at least 60 book reviews and op-ed pieces for major American papers, published articles in two-dozen magazines, and conceived, written, and narrated two Frontline documentaries. In addition to his Pulitzer, he holds ten honorary degrees, and has served on more than five boards, including those of the NAACP and the African-American Institute. In 1990, he was the national coordinator of Nelson Mandela’s visit to the United States.
After five years in New York, he forsook the Big Apple for the nation’s capital, and began a career in the U.S. government that would span the next seven years. During this time, his work took him through three different government agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Justice. He eventually rose to serve as the assistant attorney general of the United States at the Department of Justice from 1966-69 before leaving his career in government.
After a three-year commitment to philanthropic work, during which time he served as the program officer in charge of social development for the Ford Foundation, he embarked on what was to become his second major, and equally successful, career as an editor and commentator for newspaper and radio in New York and Washington. After a short time as a member of the editorial page staff at the Washington Post, he returned to New York City for five years (1974-79), where he was a member of the editorial board of the New York Times.
Never quite able to resist the lure of D.C.’s dual power and charm, he returned in 1980 to assume the role of associate editor of the Washington Star. From there, he quickly moved to CBS News, where he became network radio commentator. In 1990, he became network radio commentator for National Public Radio—a role he continues to this day.
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