Image from UGA Today
By Adam Mahoney
Alabama native Cynthia Tucker, born March 13, 1955, is an award-winning and critically acclaimed journalist best known for her editorial work at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Tucker received a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007. Tucker’s unique, progressive, and liberal southern voice has gained her recognition and allowed her to develop a reputation as not only a reputable opinion source, but as a thought-provoking and newsworthy journalist.
Tucker’s style can be directly linked to her upbringing in the very racially hostile Monroeville, Alabama. It is reported that she did not attend a truly integrated public school until she was 17, and her parents encouraged her to boycott businesses that maintained segregationist policies; for example, they forbade her to buy ice cream from a drive-in that had a separate window for blacks. This undoubtedly contributed to her wanting to pursue journalism, but also her realistic opinions and attitudes to the working and adult world.
In 1972, Tucker entered Auburn University for the sole fact that she wanted her college experience to mimic the realities of the working world, and Auburn had only recently integrated and had fewer than 200 African American students. She graduated in 1976 with a major in journalism and English.
After her graduation, Tucker was hired by The Atlanta Journal were she covered local government news. In 1982, after leaving The Atlanta Journal and a short stint at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tucker packed up and went on six months of travel and freelance writing in Africa. From African nations such as Kenya and Zimbabwe, she filed articles on the struggle for political and economic equality, which not only influenced her personal life, but her work back home in the states.
Tucker returned home and continued as a columnist and writer until 1988, when she spent a year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Following her fellowship she was promoted to editorial page editor, becoming the first woman and the first African-American to hold the position at the Atlanta Constitution.
Tucker has since joined the ranks of syndicated columnists, as Chronicle Features began distributing her columns under the title “As I See It.” Her columns on issues such as civil rights and the war in Iraq reflected her liberal philosophy. At the same time, however, Tucker has not been afraid to criticize politicians who share her political views, such as former Rep. Cynthia McKinney and former Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell.
Tucker is a fighter for the truth and it has paid dividends through her award-winning pieces. In 2007, she won the Pulitzer for her work on her 2006 columns “Living Proof of Immigration’s Marvelousness” (a piece in support of more tolerant immigration policies) and “Poor Little Big Man’s Pity Party” (a critique of mayor Bill Campbell). She has also won the Distinguished Writing Award by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (1989), the top newspaper columnist award by the Women’s Political Caucus (1993), and Colby College’s Elijah Parish Lovejoy Journalism Award (2005). Colby college also awarded her an honorary doctor of laws degree. She was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2006 and was included in Essence magazine’s “25 Most Influential of 2007” list.
As of now, Tucker continues to write, commentate and break barriers at The Journal-Constitution, and is also a frequent commentator on such television programs as The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.