39-year Washington Post opinion columnist William Raspberry died today in Washington. Raspberry, who was one of the first black columnists writing for a mainstream newspaper, was 76.

Raspberry came to prominence covering the 1965 Los Angeles Watts riot for the Post. A year later, he started hiscolumn, which he used  as a voice for the marginalized. After growing up in the Deep South during its years of segregation and brutal racism, Raspberry credited his parents for raising him with a belief in being able to rise above his environment.

Raspberry retired from the Post in 2005, but remained active in an educational foundation he founded in his hometown, Okolona, Miss.

From his Post obit:

When strident voices were shouting for attention, Mr. Raspberry often favored a moderate tone. He did not consider himself a political partisan and even stopped appearing on argumentative news-talk shows because, as he said in 2006, “they force you to pretend to be mad even when you’re not.”

Click here for the whole thing.