James J. Kilpatrick

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James J. Kilpatrick
Born James Jackson Kilpatrick
November 1, 1920
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States
Died August 15, 2010(2010-08-15) (aged 89)
Washington, D.C., United States
Occupation Journalist, columnist, author, writer, grammarian

James Jackson Kilpatrick (November 1, 1920 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – August 15, 2010 in Washington, D.C.) was an American newspaper journalist, columnist, author, writer and grammarian.

Kilpatrick was born and reared in Oklahoma City and earned a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in 1941. He spent many years as an editor of The Richmond News Leader in Richmond, Virginia.[1]

Segregationist beginnings and evolution

During the Civil Rights era, Kilpatrick supported racial segregation and opposed federal enforcement of civil rights legislation.[2][3] Kilpatrick also advocated the states' rights doctrine of interposition, arguing that the states had the right to oppose and even nullify federal court rulings.[citation needed]

Nevertheless, Kilpatrick's arguments for segregation were not entirely based on federalism. In 1963 he submitted an article to the The Saturday Evening Post, "The Hell He Is Equal" in which he wrote that the "Negro race, as a race, is in fact an inferior race." (The article was rejected by the magazine's editors after four black girls were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.) Kilpatrick eventually changed his position on segregation, though he remained a staunch opponent of federal encroachments on the states.[4] Earlier in November 1960, he publicly debated segregation with Martin Luther King Jr. in New York.[5]

Kilpatrick told a Roanoke newspaper in 1993 that he had intended merely to delay court-mandated integration because "violence was right under the city waiting to break loose. Probably, looking back, I should have had better consciousness of the immorality, the absolute evil of segregation."[citation needed]

As editor of The Richmond News Leader, Kilpatrick started the Beadle Bumble fund to pay fines for victims of what he termed "despots on the bench." He built the fund with contributions from readers and later used the Beadle Bumble Fund to defend books as well as people. After a school board in suburban Richmond ordered school libraries to dispose of all copies of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, because the board found the book immoral, Kilpatrick wrote, "A more moral novel scarcely could be imagined." With money from the fund, he offered free copies to children who wrote him; by the end of the first week, he had given away 81 copies.[6]

Kilpatrick began writing his syndicated political column, "A Conservative View," in 1964 and left the News Leader in 1966.[7]


In 1979 Kilpatrick joined the Universal Press Syndicate as a columnist, eventually distributed to more than 180 newspapers around the country.[citation needed]

Kilpatrick went into semi-retirement in 1993, shifting from a three-times-a-week political column to a weekly column on judicial issues, "Covering the Courts," which ended in 2008. For many years he also wrote a syndicated column dealing with English usage, especially in writing, called "The Writer's Art" (also the title of his 1985 book on writing). In January 2009, the Universal Syndicate announced that Kilpatrick would end this column because of health reasons.[citation needed]

His other books include The Foxes Union, a recollection of his life in Rappahannock County, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains; Fine Print: Reflections on the Writing Art; and, A Political Bestiary, which he co-wrote with former U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy and Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Jeff MacNelly.


Kilpatrick is perhaps best known for his nine years as a participant on the TV news magazine 60 Minutes. In the 1970s, he appeared in a closing segment called "Point-Counterpoint," opposite Nicholas von Hoffman and, later, Shana Alexander.[4]

"'If ever I heard an oversimplified fairy tale of the last years in Vietnam, I just heard one from you,' Mr. Kilpatrick said in one exchange. They peppered their remarks with 'Oh, come on, Jack' and 'Now see here, Shana' and helped make possible even-more combative talk shows, including Crossfire."[8] The debates between Kilpatrick and Alexander were such a feature of contemporary American culture that they were satirized on Saturday Night Live, with Jane Curtin taking Alexander's role on "Weekend Update" opposite Dan Aykroyd's version of Kilpatrick.[9]


Kilpatrick married sculptor Marie Louise Pietri in 1942. She died in 1997. In 1998, Kilpatrick married liberal Washington-based syndicated columnist Marianne Means.[10][11]

Kilpatrick's personal papers, including his editorial files and correspondence, are housed in Special Collections of the University of Virginia Library. Guides and descriptions of Kilpatrick's papers are available through the Virginia Heritage database.


  • The Sovereign States: Notes of a Citizen of Virginia. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1957.
  • The Smut Peddlers: The Pornography Racket and the Law Dealing with Obscenity Censorship. Doubleday, 1960.
  • The Southern Case for School Segregation. Crowell-Collier Press, 1962.
  • The Foxes' Union, EPM Publications, Inc., 1977.
  • A Political Bestiary, Viable Alternatives, Impressive Mandates & Other Fables (with Eugene McCarthy and Jeff MacNelly), 1978.
  • The American South: Four Seasons of the Land (with William A. Bake). Oxmoor House, 1983.
  • The Writer's Art. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1985. ISBN 0-8362-7925-5
  • The Ear Is Human: A Handbook of Homophones and Other Confusions. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1985. ISBN 0-8362-1259-2
  • Fine Print: Reflections on the Writing Art. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1993.


  1. Civil Rights Greensboro: James J. Kilpatrick
  2. National Review
  3. Nancy MacLean, Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace (2008), 46. National Review was a conservative magazine edited by William F. Buckley, Jr..
  4. 4.0 4.1 Richard Goldstein, "James. J. Kilpatrick, Conservative Voice in Print and on TV, Dies at 89", The New York Times, August 16, 2010.
  5. Goldstein, Richard (August 16, 2010). "James J. Kilpatrick, Conservative Voice, Dies at 89". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Newspapers: Spoofing the Despots" Time Magazine, Time.com. Jan. 21, 1966.
  7. Nafeesa Syeed, "Conservative commentator James J. Kilpatrick remembered", AP in Tulsa World, August 17, 2010.
  8. Washington Post obituary
  9. Legacy.utsandiego.com
  10. Elaine Woo, "James J. Kilpatrick dies at 89; newspaper columnist and arbiter of language", Los Angeles Times, August 17, 2010.
  11. "Remembering James J. Kilpatrick, conservative columnist who died last night", Houston Chronicle, August 16, 2010.

Further reading

  • Chappell, David L. "The Divided Mind of Southern Segregationists," Georgia Historical Quarterly, Spring 1998, Vol. 82 Issue 1, p45-72
  • Friedman, Murray. "One Episode in Southern Jewry's Response to Desegregation: An Historical Memoir," American Jewish Archives, July 1981, Vol. 33 Issue 2, p170-183, focused on his debates with Kilpatrick
  • Havard, William C. "The Journalist as Interpreter of the South," Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter 1983, Vol. 59 Issue 1, pp 1–21

External links