Editor’s note: Often, when Leonard Pitts Jr. took a lengthier vacation, usually in August and December, we would hear from readers worried The Seattle Times was discontinuing his column. We could reassure that he was off for just a couple weeks. But, sadly, this time we can’t. We will miss Pitts’ column, too.
Well, as Carol Burnett used to say, I’m so glad we had this time together.
I’ve written about 1.6 million words as a columnist. This 600 or so will be the last. I’m retiring for a few reasons. One is that, while I’ve managed to squeeze out four novels between column deadlines, my dream was always to write books full time. I turned 65 in October, so if not now, when?
Another reason is that a column, for me, at least, is an act of emotional investment — and I’m emotionally exhausted. They say you know when it’s time. That’s true. And it is.
So here’s the part where I thank a bunch of people, most of whom you never heard of:
Like Mom, who thought the sun rose and set on her firstborn.
Like Regina Jones, publisher of SOUL, a Black entertainment tabloid, who gave me my first writing job — $25 for interviewing a new singer named Deniece Williams — in 1976. RJ taught me how to be a professional.
Like Marilyn and the kids for putting up with me, especially when I made our lives the subject of my work.
Like Steve Sonsky and Ileana Oroza, who hired me as pop music critic for The Miami Herald in 1991. Special thanks to Sonsky for not firing me three years later when I asked to be freed from the music beat so I could write a column about, well … anything I wanted.
Thank you to the editors who kept me mostly out of trouble over the years: Emily Hathaway, Lynn Medford, Elissa Vanaver, John Barry, Shelley Acoca, Glenda Wolin, Myriam Marquez, Juan Vasquez, Amy Driscoll, Luisa Yanez, Tracy Clark. Thanks to my current editor, Nancy Ancrum, who had to talk me in off the ledge an average of once a week during the Trump debacle.
Thanks to my brother from another mother, Howard Cohen, for great arguments. Thanks to my former colleague, Christine Dolen, who, with her husband John, took me — whom she barely knew — my wife and our five kids into their three-bedroom house when Hurricane Andrew left us homeless.
Thanks to Tribune Content Agency, my longtime syndicate.
Thanks to Dave Barry. When a column starts getting traction, a lot of weird stuff happens — syndication contracts, speaking engagements — that nobody prepares you for. Dave took it upon himself to tutor me. I no longer recall all the advice, but I’ve never forgotten the gesture.
Thanks to Judi Smith. My former assistant retired in 2019, but still insists on proofreading the column. I will miss sparring with her over what does and does not constitute an extraneous comma. I wrote this, sentence just, for her. (CQ)
Thank you, readers, for your loyalty and for every word of encouragement and constructive criticism along the way.
By the time you read this, I will have woken up for the first time in 46 years without a deadline to meet. It’s going to feel strange. I’ve always considered this podium a great privilege: Everyone has an opinion, after all, but precious few get to have their voices magnified — much less be paid for it.
I tried to use that privilege to sound alarms about human rights, democracy, gun violence, the misinformation crisis and more. The fight on all those fronts goes on. Nothing ends here, except my access to this megaphone. I’ll be teaching and, of course, writing novels from now on.
Which is fine. I’ve said pretty much all I had to say. Except for this: Isn’t it amazing how fast the years go?
Turns out, time doesn’t really care if you’re having fun; it flies, regardless. Again, Carol Burnett said it well. “Seems we just get started and before you know it, comes the time we have to say, so long.”
Good night, everybody.