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Rowan, Carl T. 1925–2000

Carl T. Rowan 19252000

Journalist, columnist

At a Glance

Began Journalism Career

Covered Montgomery Bus Boycott

Joined Kennedy Administration

Return to Journalism

Accused NAACP Chair of Pilfering

Selected writings

Sources

Familiar to Americans as a nationally-syndicated columnist and a panelist on the television program Inside Washington, Carl T. Rowan has been called by the Washington Post the most visible black journalist in the country. In his long and distinguished career in journalism and as the author of six books, Rowan documented some of the biggest political and social stories of the last fifty years, including the Cold War, the American Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the economic policies of the Reagan administration. He also held government posts in the Kennedy and Johnson presidential administrations, serving as director of the United States Information Agency and U.S. Ambassador to Finland. Rowans 1991 bestselling autobiography, Breaking Barriers: A Memoir, recounts his ground-breaking career as one of the nations few black journalists, from his early days in poverty, to his becoming one of the first black officers in the U.S. Navy, one of the first black reporters on a U.S. national daily newspaper, his tenure as the highest-ranking black official in the federal government, and his often outspoken career as a nationally-syndicated columnist.

Rowan grew up in poverty in McMinnville, Tennessee, in the midst of the segregated Jim Crow South, where his father struggled to support his family on a meager salary from stacking lumber, and his mother occasionally took in laundry. Like many black youths, Rowan did various menial jobs for the white community, and while the economic and social situation in McMinnville offered little hope for the future, Rowan found an outlet in education. Particularly important to him were teachers who stressed the values of education and persistence as ways to confront the obstacles facing black youths. One high school teacher in particular, Miss Bessie, to whom Rowan dedicated a 1980 column, smuggled him books out of the all-white library in McMinnville. Rowan recounted the important message imparted to him by Miss Bessie in Breaking Barriers: If you dont read, you cant write, and if you cant write, you can stop dreaming.

Rowan excelled as a student at McMinnvilles all-black Bernard High School, where he graduated as valedictorian of his class. After graduation, Rowan headed for Nashville with only 77 cents to his name but hopes of attending college. He moved in with his grandparents and worked as an attendant at the hospital where his grandfather was employed, earning $30 a month for his college expenses. He enrolled at all-black Tennes-

At a Glance

Born Carl Thomas Rowan on born August 11, 1925, in Ravenscroft, TN; died on September 23, 2000, in Washington, D.C.; grew up in McMinnville, TN; son of Thomas David and Johnnie (Bradford) Rowan; married: Vivien Louise Murphy, August 2, 1950; children: Barbara; Carl Thomas, Jr.; Geoffrey. Education: Attended Tennessee State University, 1942-43, and Washburn University, 1943-44; Oberlin College, A.B. (mathematics), 1947; University of Minnesota, M.A. (journalism), 1948. Military Service: U.S. Navy, communications officer.

Career: Minneapolis Tribune, Minneapolis, MN, copy editor, 1948-50, staff reporter, 1950-61; U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, 1961-63; U.S. Ambassador to Finland, Helsinki, 1963-64; director of United States Information Agency (USIA), 1964-65; Chicago Sun-Times (formerly Chicago Daily News), Chicago, IL, columnist for Field Newspaper Syndicate, 1965-; National affairs commentator, The Rowan Report (national radio program); political commentator for radio and television stations of Post-Newsweek Broadcasting Co.; panelist, Agronsky & Co. and Inside Washington (syndicated television shows); frequent panelist, Meet the Press, NBC-TV; former member of U.S. delegation to United Nations; lecturer.

Awards: Sidney Hillman Award, for best newspaper reporting, 1952; Best Book citations, American Library Association, for South of Freedom, 1952, for The Pitiful and the Proud; communications award, 1956; Anti-Defamation League of Bnai Brith, 1964; Washington Journalist of the Year, Capital Press Club, 1978; American Black Achievement Award, Ebony 1978; George Foster Peabody Award, for Race War in Rhodesia, 1978; Alfred I.duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton, for television documentary, Thurgood Marshall: The Man, 1987; Victory Award, National Rehabilitation Hospital, 1998; facility named after him by U.S. Department of State, Carl T. Rowan Briefing Room, dedicated after his death, 2001.

see State University in 1942, and the following year was recommended by a professor for an opportunity to take an examination for a U.S. Navy commission.

Rowan passed the examination and was later assigned to Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, as one of the first fifteen blacks in Navy history to be admitted to the V-12 officer-training program. Rowan later attended Oberlin College in Ohio as part of the program and then the Naval Reserve Midshipmen School in Fort Schuyler, the Bronx. He was eventually commissioned an officer and was assigned to sea duty, where he excelled as deputy commander of the communications division.

Rowans naval duties ended in 1946, and he briefly returned to McMinnville, but his time in the Navy had pointed him towards new goals in his life. When you are plucked out of a totally Jim Crow environment at age seventeen and thrown into a totally white environment where more is at stake than your personal life, you mature rapidly, he wrote in Breaking Barriers.

Rowan returned to Oberlin to complete his college degree, with hopes of eventually becoming a journalist. He found Oberlins egalitarianism a positive experience and learned much from students who, unlike himself, came from homes where political, economic, and social issues were discussed daily. Rowan majored in mathematics and obtained work as a free-lance writer for the Negro newspaper chain, the Baltimore Afro-American. When he was accepted into graduate school in journalism at the University of Minnesota, Rowan worked as a northern correspondent for the A fro-American, and also wrote for the Twin Cities two black papers, the Minneapolis Spokesman and the St. Paul Recorder.

Began Journalism Career

Rowan got a big break after graduate school when he was hired at the copy desk of the all-white Minneapolis Tribune. Two years later, he became that papers first black reporter and one of the few in the entire United States. Rowan was working as a general-assignment reporter when he remembered the advice of a white Texan he had met in the Navy who told him that if he became a writer, he should tell all the little things it means to be a Negro in the South, or anyplace where being a Negro makes a difference. Rowan proposed to the Tribune management that he take a trip through the deep South and report on the effects of Jim Crow discrimination laws on Negroes. The Tribune enthusiastically agreed to his proposal, and Rowan embarked upon a 6,000-mile journey through thirteen states, writing a series of eighteen articles in 1951 entitled, How Far From Slavery?

Rowans articles caused a sensation among Tribune readers and brought him wide critical recognition, in addition to earning him the Sidney Hillman Award for the best newspaper reporting of 1952. Time magazine praised the articles as a perceptive, well-written series on segregation and prejudice in the South as only a Negro could know them. Rowan noted in Breaking Barriers, his objective was to tell the American people some truths they do not know, explain some things that they clearly do not understand, and fulfill every journalistic obligation that burdens any reporter of any race. The articles also became the basis for Rowans first book, South of Freedom, published in 1952.

Hodding Carter, white editor of a liberal Mississippi newspaper (and father of State Department spokesperson Hodding Carter, Jr.), wrote in the New York Times that South of Freedom was a vivid reminder that changes which a white Southerner thinks are swift seem snail-like and indecisive to a southerner who is not white and who suffers from color barriers and called the book a noteworthy contribution to the sad folklore of American interracial relations. Reviewer Harold Fleming in the New Republic noted that Rowans return to the South was a profound personal experience, and he communicates that experience to the reader with unusual skill.

Rowan returned to the South for a second series of articles entitled Jim Crows Last Stand, which reviewed the various court cases comprising the historic 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision, outlawing racial segregation in public schools. Rowan gained further recognition with Jim Crows Last Stand, and in 1954 received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Journalism Award for the best general reporting of 1953, in addition to being named by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce as one of Americas ten most outstanding men of 1953.

In 1954 Rowan was invited by the U.S. State Department to travel to India and lecture on the role of a free press in a free society. Rowan wrote a series of articles for the Tribune on India, which earned him his second consecutive Sigma Delta Chi Award, this time for best foreign correspondence. Rowans trip was extended to include Southeast Asia, and he wrote another series of articles on the tense political climate in the region, in addition to covering the 1955 Bandung Conference, a gathering of representatives from twenty-three underdeveloped nations. For these articles, Rowan won an unprecedented third straight Sigma Delta Chi Award, while his 1956 book, The Pitiful and the Proud, which recounted his Asian journeys, was named one of the best books of the year by the American Library Association.

Covered Montgomery Bus Boycott

Rowan returned to the United States and continued as a reporter for the Tribune. In the late 1950s, he covered the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement in the South, including the historic Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott in 1955, resulting from Rosa Parkss refusal to relinquish her bus seat to a white passenger.

As the only black reporter covering the story for a national newspaper, Rowan struck a special friendship with the boycotts leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr. When news of an unlikely compromise settlement of the boycott came to Rowans attention across the Associate Press wire, he notified King, who made quick steps to discredit the story which was about to appear in a Montgomery newspaper, thus ensuring the continuance of the boycott. Rowan wrote an acclaimed series of articles for the Tribune, Dixie Divided, which explored efforts in the South to resist the Supreme Courts desegregation orders.

In addition to his reporting, Rowan was a member of the Committee of 100, a group of citizens who raised money across the United States for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. As one of the countrys few black reporters, Rowan was increasingly called to comment on the impact of the Civil Rights Movement, and his articles appeared throughout the country in a number of magazines and newspapers. His 1957 book, Go South to Sorrow, which generated both controversy and acclaim was, as he describes in Breaking Barriers, a lashing out at President Eisenhower, Hodding Carter, and other gradualists who, in my view, were compromising away the freedom of Americas black people.

In 1956 Rowan was called away from the South to cover the United Nations, as the world witnessed two events of major international importance: the Suez Canal crisis in which England, France, and Israel attempted to seize the canal from Egypt, and the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet Union, both in late 1956. Rowan was especially outraged at the brutal Soviet reprisal against the Hungarians, and reflected in Breaking Barriers on its relation to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement: In the mentalities of our White House, our Congress, our media, there were no troublemakers on both sides in Hungary. The villains were the brutal Soviet rapers of innocent Hungarians who had dared to reach out for freedom. But in America the air was filled with cries, even by Eisenhower and Stevenson, for a moderate approach to ending segregation and a national rejection of the extremists on both sides.

Joined Kennedy Administration

In 1960 Rowan had the opportunity to interview presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy for the Tribune. After Kennedy was elected, the new president contacted Rowan and asked him to become his Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, responsible for press relations of the State Department. Rowan was involved in the sensitive area of news coverage of increasing U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and joined the negotiating team that secured the exchange of pilot Francis Gary Powers, who was shot down over the Soviet Union in his U2 spy plane. He also accompanied Vice-President Lyndon Johnson on a tour through Southeast Asia, India, and Europe. In 1963, Kennedy named Rowan U.S. Ambassador to Finland, making him the youngest ambassador in diplomatic service, and only the fifth black to ever serve as an envoy.

When Johnson became president following Kennedys assassination, he named Rowan head of the United States Information Agency (USIA), a position which made him the highest-ranking black in the federal government and the first ever to attend National Security Council meetings. As head of USIA with a staff of 13,000, Rowan was responsible for overseeing a vast government communications network, which included the international Voice of America radio system and the daily communiques to U.S. embassy personnel around the world. Rowan was assigned the task of developing a massive psychological warfare program to assist the Vietnam War effort and was criticized for drawing away from the other USIA activities. In 1965, Rowan resigned from USIA and took a lucrative offer to write a national column for the Field Newspaper Syndicate, in addition to three weekly radio commentaries for the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company.

Return to Journalism

As a columnist and commentator on the national scene, Rowan developed a reputation as an independent and often controversial voice on national political and social issues. He publicly urged Martin Luther King, Jr., to remove himself from his increasing antiwar stance, in that it was damaging the thrust of the Civil Rights Movement. He called for the resignation of powerful FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, holding that Hoovers lengthy tenure was leading to serious abuses of power, including unethical and illegal investigations of citizens. When Ronald Reagan became president, Rowan became a passionate critic of the presidents policies, noting that the gains made in the Civil Rights Movement for disadvantaged groups were being seriously undermined by cuts in vital social and economic programs.

While Rowan was throughout the years a frequent spokesman for civil and economic rights for blacks and other disadvantaged groups, he was also critical of those blacks he felt should more aggressively address the serious issues that affect them. Neil A. Grauer, in his book Wits & Sages, called Rowan a vigorous exponent of self-improvement [who] has little patience for those who wont work at it.

In 1988 Rowan made national headlines when he shot and wounded an intruder in his Washington, D.C., home. A frequent advocate of national gun control laws, Rowan was charged with possession of an unregistered firearm, charges which were later dropped in court. Rowan accused former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barrya frequent target of criticism in Rowans columnof extortion by offering not to pursue the charges against Rowan if the columnist would tone down attacks on the mayors administration. Rowan came under criticism again for speaking out against Barry, yet responded with a statement: I have learned over four decades as a journalist that City Hall becomes more and more corrupt as more and more citizens lose the guts to fight.

Breaking Barriers, a New York Times bestseller, was praised by Roy Larson in the New York Times Book Review as an anecdotally rich memoir which appeals to the interests of a whole spectrum of readers. UPI White House correspondent Helen Thomas, on the books dust jacket, calls Rowan one of the most respected and admired journalists on the Washington scene who has held the liberal banner high for the disadvantaged and the afflicted. Throughout his career, Rowan has held the rare position of, as Larson noted, a prophet with honor on both sides of a biracial society divided against itself.

Accused NAACP Chair of Pilfering

In 1994 Rowan wrote in a column that the chair of the NAACP, William F. Gibson, had overbilled the organization. Rowan claimed he had copies of papers that showed Gibson used his American Express credit card for a half million dollars worth of charges and was reimbursed $300,000 since becoming chair. Gibson called the accusations lies, according to Jet. The NAACP stood by Gibson.

After Breaking Barriers, Rowan wrote two books: Dream Makers, Dream Breakers: The World of Justice Thurgood Marshall, and The Coming Race War in America: A Wake-Up Call. In Dream Makers, Rowan delved into Marshalls life, and brought to light a behind-the-scenes look into Marshalls role in the Roe v. Wade abortion decision. He stated (and reprinted in the National Review), The Court records indicate that no Justice ever supported a womans right to choice as uncompromisingly as Marshall did. A review of The Coming Race War by the Washington Monthly stated that Rowan is on target most of the time.

Rowan suffered from diabetes and he had his leg amputated after complications developed from a foot infection. A year after the amputation, he received the Victory Award from the National Rehabilitation Hospital. The Victory Award is given to those who have coped with a physical adversity in a remarkable way. Previous honorees include singer Ray Charles and track star Gail Devers. According to Jet, Rowan, upon accepting the award, stated, I have seen at National Rehabilitation Hospital so many people who were caught in far worse circumstances than I, and surely deserve this Victory Award more than I do.

In 1999 Rowan filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Sun-Times alleging he was forced into retirement because he was African American and old. He sought one million dollars in compensatory damages. According to the Editor & Publisher, Rowan said a source told him the Sun-Times wanted to get black images out of the paper to appeal more to suburban readers. The case was settled out of court in 2000, when the Sun-Times agreed to give a gift of $250,000 to Rowans Project Excellence, a scholarship program for African-American high school students. The paper also agreed to hire two African-American students to intern during the summers from 2001-2004. Michael Cooke, editor-in-chief of the Sun-Times, told Jet, We would rather salute Carl than litigate with him.

On September 23, 2000, Carl Rowan died in Washington, D.C. More than 300 people attended a Freedom Forum tribute to honor his contributions. Sam Riley, a professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, told Editor & Publisher, He was an absolute pioneer. He paved the way for dozens of other black columnists who followed. Carl Rowan Jr. told the Associated Press that his father viewed himself as a pioneer for racial justice, and he understood that the best defense against discrimination was an aggressive offense of education and a commitment to excellence.

Selected writings

South of Freedom, Knopf, 1952.

The Pitiful and the Proud, Random House, 1956.

Go South to Sorrow, Random House, 1957.

Wait Till Next Year: The Life Story of Jackie Robinson, Random House, 1960.

Just between Us Blacks, Random House, 1974.

Race War in Rhodesia, PTV Publications, 1978.

Breaking Barriers: A Memoir, Little, Brown, 1991.

Readers Digest, Contributing editor.

Dream Makers, Dream Breakers: The World of Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1993.

The Coming Race War in America: A Wake-Up Call, 1997.

for television

Searching for Justice: Three American Stories, documentary host, 1987.

Thurgood Marshall: The Man, documentary host, 1987.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Issues Criticism, Volume 1, Gale, 1982.

Grauer, Neil A., Wits & Sages, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.

Rowan, Carl T., Breaking Barriers: A Memoir, Little, Brown, 1991.

Periodicals

Christian Science Monitor, August 4, 1952.

Editor & Publisher, July 3, 1999; October 2, 2000; October 9, 2000.

Jet, October 24, 1994; December 7, 1998; July 26, 1999; September 4, 2000; January 29, 2001.

National Review, March 1, 1993.

New York Times, August 3, 1952.

New York Times Book Review, January 20, 1991.

Time, June 27, 1988.

Washington Monthly, March 1997.

Washington Post, October 28, 1978.

World Almanc and Book of Facts, Annual 2001.

Michael E. Mueller and Ashyia N. Henderson

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Rowan, Carl T. 1925—

Carl T. Rowan 1925

Journalist

At a Glance

Began Journalism Career

Covered Montgomery Bus Boycott

Joined Kennedy Administration

Return to Journalism

Selected writings

Sources

Familiar to Americans as a nationally-syndicated columnist and a panelist on the television program Inside Washington, Carl T. Rowan has been called by the Washington Post the most visible black journalist in the country. In his long and distinguished career in journalism, and as the author of six books, Rowan has documented some of the biggest political and social stories of the last fifty years, including the Cold War, the American Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the economic policies of the Reagan administration. He has also held government posts in the Kennedy and Johnson presidential administrations, serving as director of the United States Information Agency and U.S. Ambassador to Finland. Rowans 1991 bestselling autobiography, Breaking Barriers: A Memoir, recounts his ground-breaking career as one of the nations few black journalists, from his early days in poverty, to his becoming one of the first black officers in the U.S. Navy, one of the first black reporters on a U.S. national daily newspaper, his tenure as the highest-ranking black official in the federal government, and his often outspoken career as a nationally-syndicated columnist.

Rowan grew up in poverty in McMinnville, Tennessee, in the midst of the segregated Jim Crow South, where his father struggled to support his family on a meager salary stacking lumber, and his mother occasionally took in laundry. Like many black youths, Rowan did various menial jobs for the white community, and while the economic and social situation in McMinnville offered little hope for the future, Rowan found an outlet in education. Particularly important to him were teachers who stressed the values of education and persistence as the way to confront the obstacles facing him as a black youth. One high school teacher in particular, Miss Bessie, to whom Rowan dedicated a 1980 column, smuggled him books out of the all-white library in McMinnville. Rowan recounted the important message imparted to him by Miss Bessie in Breaking Barriers: If you dont read, you cant write, and if you cant write, you can stop dreaming.

Rowan excelled as a student at McMinnvilles all-black Bernard High School, where he graduated as valedictorian of his class. After graduation, Rowan headed for Nashville with only 77 cents to his name but hopes of attending college. He moved in with his grandparents and worked as an attendant at the hospital where his

At a Glance

Full name, Carl Thomas Rowan; born August 11, 1925, in Ravenscroft, TN; son of Thomas David and Johannie (Bradford) Rowan; married Vivien Louise Murphy, August 2, 1950; children: Barbara, Carl Thomas, Jr., Geoffrey. Education: Attended Tennessee State University, 1942-43, and Washburn University, 1943-44; Oberlin College, A.B. (mathematics), 1947; University of Minnesota, M.A. (journalism), 1948.

Minneapolis Tribune, copy editor, 1948-50, staff reporter, 1950-61; U.S. Department of State, deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, 1961-63; U.S. Ambassador to Finland, 1963-64; director of United States Information Agency, 1964-65; Chicago Daily News, columnist for Field Newspaper Syndicate, 1965. National affairs commentator, The Rowan Report (national radio program); political commentator for radio and television stations of Post-Newsweek Broadcasting Co.; panelist, Agronsky & Co. and Inside Washington (syndicated television shows); frequent panelist, Meet the Press, NBC-TV. Former member of U.S. delegation to United Nations. Lecturer. Military service: U.S. Navy, communications officer.

Awards: Sidney Hillman Award, 1952, for best newspaper reporting; Best Book citations, American Library Association, 1953, for South of Freedom, and 1956, for The Pitiful and the Proud; Anti-Defamation League of Bnai Brith communications award, 1964; named Washington Journalist of the Year, Capital Press Club, 1978; American Black Achievement Award, Ebony, 1978; George Foster Peabody Award, 1978, for Race War in Rhodesia; Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Silver Baton, 1987, for television documentary Thurgood Marshall: The Man.

Addresses: Home Washington, DC. Office 1101 7th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20036.

grandfather was employed, earning $30 a month for his college expenses. He enrolled at all-black Tennessee State University in 1942, and the following year was recommended by a professor for an opportunity to take an examination for a U.S. Navy commission. Rowan passed the examination, and was later assigned to Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, as one of the first fifteen blacks in Navy history to be admitted to the V-12 officer-training program. Rowan later attended Oberlin College in Ohio as part of the program, and then the Naval Reserve Midshipmen School in Fort Schuyler, the Bronx. He was eventually commissioned an officer and was assigned to sea duty, where he excelled as deputy commander of the communications division.

Rowans naval duties ended in 1946 and he briefly returned to McMinnville, but his time in the Navy had pointed him towards new goals in his life. When you are plucked out of a totally Jim Crow environment at age seventeen and thrown into a totally white environment where more is at stake than your personal life, you mature rapidly, he wrote in Breaking Barriers.

Rowan returned to Oberlin to complete his college degree, with hopes of eventually becoming a journalist. He found Oberlins egalitarianism a positive experience, and learned much from students who, unlike himself, came from homes where political, economic, and social issues were discussed daily. Rowan majored in mathematics, and obtained work as a free-lance writer for the Negro newspaper chain, the Baltimore Afro-American. When he was accepted into graduate school in journalism at the University of Minnesota, Rowan worked as a northern correspondent for the Afro-American, and also wrote for the Twin Cities two black papers, the Minneapolis Spokesman and the St. Paul Recorder.

Began Journalism Career

Rowan got a big break after graduate school when he was hired at the copy desk of the all-white Minneapolis Tribune. Two years later, he became that papers first black reporter, and one of the few in the entire United States. Rowan was working as a general-assignment reporter when he remembered the advice of a white Texan he had met in the Navy who told him that if he became a writer, he should tell all the little things it means to be a Negro in the South, or anyplace where being a Negro makes a difference. Rowan proposed to the Tribune management that he take a trip through the deep South and report on the effects of Jim Crow discrimination laws on Negroes. The Tribune enthusiastically agreed to Rowans proposal, and he embarked upon a 6,000-mile journey through thirteen states, writing a series of eighteen articles in 1951 entitled, How Far From Slavery?

Rowans articles caused a sensation among Tribune readers and brought him wide critical recognition, in addition to earning him the Sidney Hillman Award for the best newspaper reporting of 1952. Time magazine praised the articles as a perceptive, well-written series on segregation and prejudice in the South as only a Negro could know them. Rowan noted in Breaking Barriers, his objective was to tell the American people some truths they do not know, explain some things that they clearly do not understand, and fulfill every journalistic obligation that burdens any reporter of any race. The articles also became the basis for Rowans first book, South of Freedom, published in 1952.

Hodding Carter, white editor of a liberal Mississippi newspaper (and father of State Department spokesperson Hodding Carter, Jr.), wrote in the New York Times that South of Freedom was a vivid reminder that changes which a white Southerner thinks are swift seem snail-like and indecisive to a southerner who is not white and who suffers from color barriers and called the book a noteworthy contribution to the sad folklore of American interracial relations. Reviewer Harold Fleming in the New Republic noted that Rowans return to the South was a profound personal experience, and he communicates that experience to the reader with unusual skill.

Rowan returned to the South for a second series of articles entitled Jim Crows Last Stand, which reviewed the various court cases comprising the historic 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision, outlawing racial segregation in public schools. Rowan gained further recognition with Jim Crows Last Stand, and in 1954 received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Journalism Award for the best general reporting of 1953, in addition to being named by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce as one of Americas ten most outstanding men of 1953.

In 1954, Rowan was invited by the U.S. State Department to travel to India and lecture on the role of a free press in a free society. Rowan wrote a series of articles for the Tribune on India, which earned him his second consecutive Sigma Delta Chi Award, this time for best foreign correspondence. Rowans trip was extended to include Southeast Asia, and he wrote another series of articles on the tense political climate in the region, in addition to covering the 1955 Bandung Conference, a gathering of twenty-three underdeveloped nations. For these articles, Rowan won an unprecedented third straight Sigma Delta Chi Award, while his 1956 book, The Pitiful and the Proud, which recounted his Asian journeys, was named one of the best books of the year by the American Library Association.

Covered Montgomery Bus Boycott

Rowan returned to the United States and continued as a reporter for the Tribune. In the late 1950s, he covered the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement in the South, including the historic Montgomery (Alabama) bus boycott in 1955, resulting from Rosa Parkss refusal to relinquish her bus seat to a white passenger. As the only black reporter covering the story for a national newspaper, Rowan struck a special friendship with the boycotts leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr. When news of an unlikely compromise settlement of the boycott came to Rowans attention across the Associate Press wire, he notified King, who made quick steps to discredit the story which was about to appear in a Montgomery newspaper, thus ensuring the continuance of the boycott. Rowan wrote an acclaimed series of articles for the Tribune, Dixie Divided, which explored efforts in the South to resist the Supreme Courts desegregation orders.

In addition to his reporting, Rowan was a member of the Committee of 100, a group of citizens who raised money across the United States for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. As one of the countrys few black reporters, Rowan was increasingly called upon to comment upon the impact of the Civil Rights Movement, and his articles appeared throughout the country in a number of magazines and newspapers. His 1957 book, Go South to Sorrow, which generated both controversy and acclaim was, as he describes in Breaking Barriers, a lashing out at President Eisenhower, Hodding Carter, and other gradualists who, in my view, were compromising away the freedom of Americas black people.

In 1956, Rowan was called away from the South to cover the United Nations, as the world witnessed two events of major international importance: the Suez Canal crisis in which England, France, and Israel attempted to seize the canal from Egypt, and the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet Union, both in late 1956. Rowan was especially outraged at the brutal Soviet reprisal against the Hungarians, and reflected in Breaking Barriers on its relation to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement: In the mentalities of our White House, our Congress, our media, there were no troublemakers on both sides in Hungary. The villains were the brutal Soviet rapers of innocent Hungarians who had dared to reach out for freedom. But in America the air was filled with cries, even by Eisenhower and Stevenson, for a moderate approach to ending segregation and a national rejection of the extremists on both sides.

Joined Kennedy Administration

In 1960, Rowan had the opportunity to interview presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy for the Tribune. After Kennedy was elected, the new President contacted Rowan and asked him to become his Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, responsible for press relations of the State Department. Rowan was involved in the sensitive area of news coverage of increasing U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, and was also trusted to the negotiating team that secured the exchange of pilot Francis Gary Powers, who was shot down over the Soviet Union in his U2 spy plane. He also accompanied Vice-President Lyndon Johnson on a tour through Southeast Asia, India, and Europe. In 1963, Kennedy named Rowan U.S. Ambassador to Finland, making him the youngest ambassador in diplomatic service, and only the fifth black to ever serve as an envoy.

When Johnson became President following Kennedys assassination, he named Rowan head of the United States Information Agency (USIA), a position which made him the highest-ranking black in the federal government and the first to ever attend National Security Council meetings. As head of USIA with a staff of 13,000, Rowan was responsible for overseeing a vast government communications network, which included the international Voice of America radio system and the daily communiques to U.S. embassy personnel around the world. Rowan was assigned the task of developing a massive psychological warfare program to assist the Vietnam War effort, and was criticized for drawing away from the other USIA activities. In 1965, Rowan resigned from USIA, and took a lucrative offer to write a national column for the Field Newspaper Syndicate, in addition to three weekly radio commentaries for the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company.

Return to Journalism

As a columnist and commentator on the national scene, Rowan developed a reputation as an independent and often controversial voice on national political and social issues. He publicly urged Martin Luther King, Jr., to remove himself from his increasing anti-war stance, in that it was damaging the thrust of the Civil Rights Movement. He called for the resignation of powerful FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, holding that Hoovers lengthy tenure was leading to serious abuses of power, including unethical and illegal investigations of citizens. When Ronald Reagan became president, Rowan became a passionate critic of the Presidents policies, noting that the gains made in the Civil Rights Movement for disadvantaged groups were seriously being undermined by cuts in vital social and economic programs.

While Rowan has been throughout the years a frequent spokesman for civil and economic rights for blacks and other disadvantaged groups, he has also been critical of those blacks he feels should more aggressively address the serious issues that affect them. Neil A. Grauer, in his book Wits & Sages, calls Rowan a vigorous exponent of self-improvement and has little patience for those who wont work at it.

In 1988, Rowan made national headlines when he shot and wounded an intruder in his Washington, DC, home. A frequent advocate of national gun control laws, Rowan was charged with possession of an unregistered firearm, charges which were later dropped in court. Rowan accused former Washington, DC, Mayor Marion Barrya frequent target of criticism in Rowans columnof extortion by offering to not pursue the charges against Rowan if the columnist would tone down attacks on the mayors administration. Rowan came under criticism again for speaking out against Barry, yet responded with a statement: I have learned over four decades as a journalist that City Hall becomes more and more corrupt as more and more citizens lose the guts to fight.

Breaking Barriers, a New York Times bestseller, was praised by Roy Larson in the New York Times Book Review as an anecdotally rich memoir which appeals to the interests of a whole spectrum of readers. UPI White House correspondent Helen Thomas, on the books dust jacket, calls Rowan one of the most respected and admired journalists on the Washington scene who has held the liberal banner high for the disadvantaged and the afflicted. Throughout his career, Rowan has held the rare position of, as Larson noted, a prophet with honor on both sides of a biracial society divided against itself.

Selected writings

South of Freedom, Knopf, 1952.

The Pitiful and the Proud, Random House, 1956.

Go South to Sorrow, Random House, 1957.

Wait Till Next Year: The Life Story of Jackie Robinson, Random House, 1960.

Just between Us Blacks, Random House, 1974.

Race War in Rhodesia, PTV Publications, 1978.

Breaking Barriers: A Memoir, Little, Brown, 1991.

Contributor of articles to numerous periodicals. Contributing editor to Readers Digest. Host of documentaries, including Searching for Justice: Three American Stories and Thurgood Marshall: The Man, both 1987.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Issues Criticism, Volume 1, Gale, 1982.

Grauer, Neil A., Wits & Sages, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.

Rowan, Carl T., Breaking Barriers: A Memoir, Little, Brown, 1991.

Periodicals

Christian Science Monitor, August 4, 1952.

New York Times, August 3, 1952.

New York Times Book Review, January 20, 1991.

Time, June 27, 1988.

Washington Post, October 28, 1978.

Michael E. Mueller

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Carl T. Rowan

Carl T. Rowan

The journalist and author Carl T. Rowan (born 1925) was U.S. ambassador to Finland (1963-1964) and director of the U.S. Information Agency (1964-1965).

Carl Thomas Rowan was born on August 11, 1925, in Ravenscroft, Tennessee. He was one of five children (two boys and three girls) born to Thomas David and Johnnie B. Rowan and was raised in McMinnville, Tennessee. As a youth Rowan worked hoeing bulb grass for 10 cents an hour, later performing hard manual labor for 25 cents an hour when there was work available. Like many other African American youths, Rowan's childhood was deeply affected by the "Jim Crow" attitudes so prevalent in the South. While the economic and social situation was dismal, Rowan was determined to get a good education. He excelled in high school graduating from Bernard High School in 1942 as class president and valedictorian.

Rowan left McMinnville for Nashville with 77 cents in his pocket and the dream of a college education. In order to earn his tuition for college, he moved in with his grandparents and got a job in a tuberculosis hospital the summer before enrolling in the Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College in Nashville in the fall of 1942. During his freshman year Rowan participated in a training program that led to his becoming one of the first 15 African American persons in United States history to gain a commission as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He was trained at Oberlin College in northern Ohio and at the Naval Midshipmen School at Fort Schuyler, The Bronx. Following his service with the Navy during World War II where he was assigned sea duty (and excelled as deputy commander of the communications division), Rowan returned to complete his studies at Oberlin College. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1947 majoring in mathematics. He received his master's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota, supporting himself by writing for two weekly newspapers, the Minneapolis Spokesman and the St. Paul Recorder. In 1950 Rowan married Vivien Louise Murphy, a public health nurse; their children were Barbara, Carl Jr., and Geoffrey.

Upon completion of his graduate studies Rowan joined the Minneapolis Tribune as a copyreader. He became a general assignment reporter in 1950. Among his early pieces were a series of columns entitled How Far from Slavery? which he wrote after returning to the South to study racial issues. The articles earned several local accolades and contributed to Rowan being the first African American recipient of the Minneapolis "Outstanding Young Man" award. The articles also served as the basis for South of Freedom, his first book (1952).

He then spent a year in India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia writing columns during 1954. These led to a second well-received book: The Pitiful and the Proud (1956), which was based upon his observations while in the Orient. A third book, Go South to Sorrow, was published in 1957. While his books received favorable acclaim, Rowan's writing skills were most commonly acknowledged for his journalism. He was the only journalist to receive the coveted "Sigma Delta Chi" award for newspaper reporting in three consecutive years: for general reporting in 1954; for best foreign correspondence in 1955; and for his coverage of the political unrest in Southeast Asia in 1956.

In January 1961 Rowan accepted an appointment as deputy assistant secretary of state for public affairs in the Kennedy administration. He was responsible for press relations of the State Department. He was involved in the area of news coverage of increasing US military involvement in Vietnam and was also part of the negotiating team that secured the exchange of Francis Gary Powers, who was shot down over the Soviet Union. He accompanied then Vice President Johnson on a tour through Southeast Asia, India and Europe. During this time, Rowan became the center of controversy with the rejection of his application for membership in the prestigious Cosmos Club—whose membership qualifications included meritorious work in science, literature, the learned professions, and public service—on racial grounds. The Cosmos Club then passed a rule prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, but Rowan's nomination was never resurrected. The controversy resulted in the withdrawal of President Kennedy's application to the club when Kennedy's sponsor resigned in protest.

Rowan went on to serve in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations as ambassador to Finland (January 1963 to January 1964) and as the director of the U.S. Information Agency (January 1964 to July 1965). In serving as director of the U.S.I.A., Rowan became the first African American to hold a seat on the National Security Council. With a staff of 13,000, Rowan oversaw a vast government communications network that included the international Voice of America, the daily communiques to U.S. embassy personnel around the world, and a massive psychological warfare program to assist the Vietnam War effort. This last assignment brought him criticism, as it was felt that he was drawing away from other USIA activities. Rowan resigned from USIA in 1965 and returned to his first love— journalism, by accepting an offer to write a national column for the Field Newspaper Service Syndicate and to do three weekly radio commentaries for the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company.

As a national columnist and commentator, Rowan developed a reputation for being independent and often controversial. He publicly made statements, such as urging Dr. King to lessen his anti-war stance, because it was hurting the thrust of the Civil Rights movement and calling for the resignation of J. Edgar Hoover, the powerful FBI Director, citing abuses of power and corruption that brought him criticism. While Rowan has always been a spokesperson for civil and economic rights for African Americans, he has also been critical of those he feels should more aggressively address those issues affecting themselves.

Rowan received the George Foster Peabody Award for his television special "Race War in Rhodesia" and was awarded an Emmy for his documentary "Drug Abuse: America's 64 Billion Dollar Curse." His newspaper column was syndicated by the Chicago Sun-Times and reached nearly half of homes receiving newspapers in the United States. He was on numerous public affairs television programs and was a permanent panelist on "Agronsky and Company." He also aired "The Rowan Report," a daily series of commentaries on radio stations heard across the nation. He served as a roving reporter for the Reader's Digest and regularly published articles in that magazine. He was one of the most sought-after lecturers in the United States, speaking on college campuses and at conventions of teachers, business people, civil rights leaders, and community groups.

He once told Publisher's Weekly, "you gotta get tired before you retire" and went on to publish a number of books. They included: New York Times bestseller that "appeals to the whole spectrum of readers. Dream Makers, Dream Breakers: The world of Thurgood Marshall and The Coming Race War in America: A Wake-Up Call

Further Reading

For additional information, see Rowan's own works: South of Freedom (1952); The Pitiful and the Proud (1956); Go South to Sorrow (1957); and The Coming Race War in America: A Wake-Up Call Breaking Barriers.

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Rowan, Carl

Carl Rowan

Born: August 11, 1925
Ravenscroft, Tennessee
Died: September 23, 2000
Washington, D.C.

African American diplomat and journalist

Journalist and author Carl Rowan was one of the first African American officers in the U.S. Navy. He also served as U.S. ambassador (representative) to Finland and director of the U.S. Information Agency.

Early life and education

Carl Thomas Rowan was born on August 11, 1925, in Ravenscroft, Tennessee. He was one of five children born to Thomas David and Johnnie B. Rowan and was raised in McMinnville, Tennessee. As a youth he worked hoeing grass for ten cents an hour. Rowan was determined to get a good education. He graduated from Bernard High School in 1942 as class president and valedictorian (having the highest rank in the class). Rowan then moved in with his grandparents in Nashville, Tennessee, and worked in a hospital for tuberculosis (an infection of the lungs) patients before enrolling in the Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College in the fall of 1942.

Rowan, in his freshman year, participated in a training program that led to his being chosen as one of the first fifteen African American persons in history to gain a commission (a certificate giving military rank) as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He was trained at Oberlin College in Ohio and at the Naval Midshipmen School at Fort Schuyler, New York, and he served during World War II (193945; a war fought between France, Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union on one side, and Germany, Italy, and Japan on the other). After leaving the Navy, Rowan returned to Oberlin College, earning his bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1947. He went on to receive his master's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. In 1950 Rowan married Vivien Louise Murphy, a public health nurse; they had three children.

Member of the media

Rowan then joined the Minneapolis (Minnesota) Tribune as a copyreader. He became a general assignment reporter in 1950. Among his early pieces were a series of columns entitled How Far from Slavery?, which he wrote after returning to the South to study issues of race. The articles contributed to Rowan being the first African American to receive the Minneapolis "Outstanding Young Man" award. They also served as the basis for his first book, South of Freedom (1952).

Rowan spent 1954 writing columns from India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia. These led to a second book, The Pitiful and the Proud (1956). A third book, Go South to Sorrow, was published in 1957. Rowan was the only journalist to receive the Sigma Delta Chi award for newspaper reporting in three straight years: for general reporting in 1954, for best foreign correspondence in 1955, and for his coverage of the political unrest in Southeast Asia in 1956.

Government service

In January 1961 Rowan was appointed deputy assistant secretary of state for public affairs in the administration of President John F. Kennedy (19171963). He was involved in the area of news coverage of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam (195575; from 1961 to 1970 the United States aided South Vietnam in its war against Communist North Vietnam) and accompanied then Vice President Lyndon Johnson (19081973) on a tour through Southeast Asia, India, and Europe.

Rowan went on to serve as ambassador to Finland (January 1963January 1964) and as director of the U.S. Information Agency (January 1964July 1965), the vast government communications network. In the latter post, Rowan became the first African American to hold a seat on the National Security Council and oversaw a staff of thirteen thousand. In 1965 Rowan resigned to accept an offer to write a national column for the Field Newspaper Service Syndicate and to do three weekly radio commentaries (expressions of opinion) for the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company.

Unafraid to express opinions

Rowan developed a reputation for being independent and often controversial (causing dispute). He urged Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (19291968) to change his antiwar stance because he felt it was hurting the civil rights movement, and he called for J. Edgar Hoover (18951972), director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to resign. His column reached nearly half of all homes receiving newspapers in the United States. He appeared on many public affairs television programs, served as a roving reporter for Reader's Digest magazine, and was a popular public speaker.

Rowan once told Publisher's Weekly, "You gotta get tired before you retire," and he went on to publish several more books, including Dream Makers, Dream Breakers: The World of Thurgood Marshall and The Coming Race War in America: A Wake-Up Call. In 1987 he started Project Excellence, a program designed to make it easier for top-performing African American high school students to attend college. By 2000 the program had given out twenty-six million dollars in scholarships to over eleven hundred fifty students. Rowan died of natural causes in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2000.

For More Information

Bynum, Lynn. Carl T. Rowan, Journalist Extraordinary. Bloomington: Afro-American Arts Institute, Indiana University, 1975.

Rowan, Carl T. Breaking Barriers: A Memoir. Boston: Little, Brown, 1991.

Rowan, Carl T. South of Freedom. New York: Knopf, 1952. Reprint, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997.

Zehnpfennig, Gladys. Carl T. Rowan, Spokesman for Sanity. Minneapolis: Denison, 1971.

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