Monroe County native Cynthia Tucker (1955- ) is a Washington, D.C.-based columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and former long-time editorial page editor for the newspaper. Tucker was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for commentary three times and won in 2007. Under her leadership, the Constitution's editorial page continued to provide a progressive, liberal southern voice, in the tradition of editor Henry Grady (1880-1889) and publisher Ralph McGill (1942-1969). Tucker's syndicated columns have often been provocative.
Cynthia Anne Tucker was born on March 13, 1955, in Monroeville, one of four children of John Tucker, a middle-school principal, and Mary Louise Marshall Tucker, a high school English teacher. Tucker attended the local Monroe County schools, which were emerging from decades of segregation. 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. Her experiences with de facto segregation in Monroeville would later inform her work as a journalist and editorial writer.
Tucker entered Auburn University in 1972. She chose Auburn because she wanted to experience an environment that would more closely match 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 and gained her first journalism experience writing for The Auburn Plainsman, Auburn's award-winning student newspaper. Tucker also completed an internship at the Alabama Journal, a now-defunct Montgomery newspaper. Tucker was later hired by the Atlanta Journal to cover city, county, and state government news. In 1980, she moved to the Philadelphia Inquirer and in 1982 embarked on six months of travel and free-lance writing in Africa. From African nations such as Kenya and Zimbabwe, she filed articles on the struggle for political and economic equality. She returned to the Journal as an editorial writer and columnist in 1983.
In 1986, Tucker was named associate editorial page editor of the Atlanta Constitution. Two years later, she spent a year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. She returned to the Constitution in 1991, and the following year she was promoted to editorial page editor, becoming the first woman and the first African-American to hold the position. Tucker maintained the Constitution's liberal editorial page slant, a provocative stance for a newspaper serving a conservative region. When the Constitution and Journal were merged into one newspaper in 2001, Tucker retained her title of editorial page editor.
In 1991, Tucker joined the ranks of syndicated columnists, as Chronicle Features began distributing her columns under the title "As I See It." When Universal Press Syndicate took over Chronicle Features in 1997, they continued syndication of her column to more than 70 newspapers. 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 Rep. Cynthia McKinney and Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell. In 2004 and again in 2006, Tucker was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. In 2007, she won the Pulitzer for her work on such 2006 columns as "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 Campbell).
Tucker has received numerous awards for her work, including 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). The 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.
In 2009, Tucker relocated to the Washington, D.C., office of the Journal-Constitution, where she continues to produce her columns. She is also a frequent commentator on such television programs as The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.
Benn, Alvin. "Monroeville Mom, Avid Newspaper Reader, Raised Pulitzer Winner." Montgomery Advertiser, April 30, 2007, p. B1, B2.
Hoffman, Roy. "Cynthia Tucker: Small-Town Lessons." Mobile Register, May 13, 2007, p. A1.
Jernigan, Mike. "The Write Stuff." Auburn Magazine 2 (Winter 1996): 14-19.
Oberholzer, Kristi. "Top Journalist Cynthia Tucker Knows the Meaning of Work." The Auburn Plainsman, June 12, 2007, p. A1.
Perez-Pena, Richard "An Atlanta Editorial Voice May Move to the Right," The New York Times, April 19, 2009.
Published November 9, 2009
Last updated March 22, 2010