Eugene Corbett Patterson


Honorary Degree (1990)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Thomas Ehrlich


Eugene Corbett Patterson, Editor Emeritus of the St. Petersburg Times, has provided extraordinary public service during his career, setting standards of excellence to which future journalists can aspire. A leader in upholding the freedoms this nation represents, he has demonstrated the responsibility and privilege of the press to serve the people with truth and honor.

Mr. Patterson was born in Valdosta, Georgia, and received the Bachelor of Arts from the University of Georgia in 1943. He served with distinction in World War II, receiving the Silver Star and the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster. After the war, he began his career in journalism as a reporter for the Daily Telegram of Temple, Texas, and the Telegraph of Macon, Georgia. He then joined United Press, first as manager for South Carolina, then as night bureau manager for New York City, before becoming manager for the London, England, bureau and chief correspondent for the United Kingdom.

In 1956, Mr. Patterson joined the Atlanta Journal and Constitution as vice president and executive editor, and in 1960 he became editor of the Atlanta Constitution. In this position, he was a leader in moving public opinion in Georgia toward acceptance of desegregation in the public schools during the difficulties of 1959-1961. His wisdom and compassion contributed to the productive resolution of that crisis.

Mr. Patterson served as managing editor of the Washington Post from 1968 to 1971, and in 1972 undertook the editorship of the Congressional Quarterly, a responsibility he carried with superb judgment for the next fourteen years. In 1978, he also became chairman and chief executive officer of the St. Petersburg Times Publishing Company and all its affiliates, and director of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. He retired from these positions in 1988.

Mr. Patterson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 1966. He received the William Allen White National Award for journalistic merit in 1980 and is a Fellow of the Society of Professional Journalists. Twelve colleges and universities have recognized his distinction with honorary degrees.