william_raspberry.jpgWASHINGTON- William Raspberry, who became a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post after growing up in segregated Mississippi, died Tuesday.

His wife of 45 years, Sondra Raspberry, told the Post her husband had prostate cancer. He was 76.

Raspberry was born and grew up in Okolona, Miss., where his parents were teachers at an academy for black students that combined high school and two years of college. He went to Indiana Central College, now the University of Indianapolis, and joined the Post as a teletype operator after Army service.

After he became a Metro reporter, Raspberry told NPR in a 2005 interview that he asked himself a question: "I started asking myself, 'What is it I know that the other guys don't know? What am I better at?' And my thought was that I've had a couple decades being black, and they haven't."

Raspberry gained a national reputation covering the Watts riots in Los Angeles. When Washington and other major cities erupted after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968, he was already a columnist, but he spent a lot of time on the street, gathering material.

In 1994, his columns won a Pulitzer Prize.

Clarence Page, who won a Pulitzer for his columns for the Chicago Tribune in 1989, said Raspberry and Carl Rowan, the first black journalist to become a columnist, "blazed a trail for the rest of us, not only as journalists but as voices of courage against the narrow ideologies of the left or right."

"Bill Raspberry inspired a rising generation of African-American columnists and commentators who followed in his path, including me," Page said.

Raspberry also taught journalism at Duke for 15 years.

In addition to his wife and their three children, he is survived by his 106-year-old mother, Willie Mae Raspberry.