On this day in 1925, Carl Thomas Rowan was born.
As a journalist and reporter, Rowan also appeared frequently as a television commentator and authored several biographies of well-known figures such as Jackie Robinson and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Born in a small mining town in Tennessee, Rowan grew up in a house with no running water, electricity, or even a clock. As a child, he had a teacher encourage him to read and write as much as he could. However, Rowan was not able to check books out from the library for himself because of his skin color. He graduated at the top of his high school class.
After graduation, he worked at a hospital to save money for college – in 1942, he attended Tennessee State College. At the beginning of World War II, Rowan signed up for a Navy program and would later become an officer. There were only twenty black naval officers during the war.
He went on to attend Oberlin College in Ohio and then the University of Minnesota for his master’s degree. Around the same time, he started working as a copy editor at the Minneapolis Tribune.
Lyndon Johnson was impressed by Rowan’s reporting, which ultimately led to an appointment in 1961 in the State Department of the John F. Kennedy administration. Rowan began to serve as a delegate to the United Nations, as well as Director of the U.S. Information Agency and an ambassador to Finland.
Four years later, Rowan left the Federal government and started a syndicated newspaper column. The column was published three days a week all the way up until his death in 2000.
He passed away at the age of 75. He remains the only journalist to ever have won the Society of Professional Journalists’’ Sigma Delta Chi medallion three years in a row.