On this day in 1983: Claude Sitton, editor of the News and Observer of Raleigh, wins the Pulitzer Prize for commentary — the paper’s first. .
Sitton made his reputation as chief Southern correspondent for the New York Times during the civil rights movement (his peers appreciated his inventing the “Sitton notebook,” a cut-down version that didn’t revealingly jut out of a hip pocket at a Klan rally).
In 1968 he moved to Raleigh to continue the liberal tradition of the modern N&O, which Josephus Daniels bought at auction in 1894 to serve as an organ of the Democratic Party.
“For their crusade against the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina, Editor Willard Cole of the Whiteville News Reporter (circ. 5,007) and Editor Horace Carter of the Tabor City Tribune (circ. 1,500) won a Pulitzer Prize this year, the only one ever given to weekly papers.
“Last week Editor Cole was praised from another quarter…. In the mail came an unsolicited letter from former Imperial Wizard Thomas L. Hamilton, who was sent to jail, along with 15 other Klansmen, as a result of the weeklies’ crusade.
“Said Hamilton’s letter, which Cole put on Page One: ‘All my friends everywhere should disband the Ku Klux Klan…. I am through with [it] and believe all my former associates will best serve themselves and society as a whole by taking a similar stand.’ ”
— From Time magazine, Nov. 2, 1953