Russell Wayne Baker (born August 14, 1925) is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning writer known for his satirical commentary and self-critical prose, as well as for his autobiography, Growing Up.
Baker was the eldest of three children born to Benny and Lucy Elizabeth Baker in Morrisonville, Virginia. His first sister, Doris, was born in 1927, and after three years his second sister Audrey was born. When Baker was five years old his father died of diabetes. Being desperately poor due to the Depression, his mother made the heartbreaking decision to give Audrey up for adoption to her brother-in-law and his wife; she then moved the family to Belleville, New Jersey to live with her brother and sister-in-law. Later they moved to urban Baltimore where he graduated from the Baltimore City College high school in 1943 and received his B.A. from the School of Arts & Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in 1947. At the age of eleven as a self-professed bump on a log, he made the decision to become a writer since he figured "what writers did couldn't even be classified as work". He went on to become an essayist, journalist, and biographer, as well as the host of the PBS show Masterpiece Theatre from 1992 to 2004. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Russell Baker, was the author of the nationally syndicated "Observer" column for the New York Times from 1962 to 1998. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993. In addition, the noted journalist, humorist, essayist, and biographer has written or edited seventeen books. Baker's first Pulitzer was for distinguished commentary for his "Observer" columns (1979) and the second one was for his autobiography, Growing Up (1982). He wrote a sequel to his autobiography in 1989, called The Good Times.
In addition to his regular column and numerous books, Baker has also edited the anthologies The Norton Book of Light Verse (1986) and Russell Baker's Book of American Humor (1993). In 1993, he replaced Alistair Cooke to become the regular host of the PBS television series, Masterpiece Theatre until his own retirement in 2004. During his long career, Baker was a regular contributor to national periodicals such as The New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Saturday Evening Post, and McCalls. While still hosting Masterpiece Theatre, he moved to Leesburg, Virginia (not far from his birthplace) where he remains.