James J. Kilpatrick has worn half a dozen hats during a long life in the news business. He has been reporter, editor, columnist, commentator, and briefly an adjunct professor of journalism. He regards himself primarily as a writer who functions as a critic of ideas.
Born in Oklahoma in 1920, he began his professional career in 1941 as a reporter for the Richmond, Va., News Leader. In 1949 he succeeded Douglas Southall Freeman as editor of the News Leader's editorial pages.
In 1964 he began writing "A Conservative View." Over the next 28 years, he became the most widely syndicated political columnist in the country. In 1981 he took on a weekly column, "The Writer's Art," on the use and abuse of English. In 1992, seeking a slower pace in semiretirement, he bade farewell to "A Conservative View" and turned to the love of his public life, the U.S. Supreme Court, with a new column called "Covering the Courts." Upward of 200 newspapers have signed on.
Mr. Kilpatrick achieved his 15 minutes of fame during nine years as a debater on "60 Minutes." Over the years he has served as a talking head on "Meet the Press," "Inside Washington," and other television programs. He has written or edited 11 books, including two dealing with the writer's art.
In June 1998, he married syndicated columnist Marianne Means, thus inheriting eight grandchildren to go with his own seven. The newlyweds live in a century-old townhouse in Washington. They both are members of the capital's prestigious Gridiron Club.
He's also a trustee of the Supreme Court Historical Society and a founding trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. He writes frequently in defense of freedom of the press.
It remains to be said only that Mr. Kilpatrick cherishes other honors and high positions. He is No. 1 Pea, Pro Tem., of the Black-Eyed Pea Society of America, an office he voted himself into in 1961. He is the recording secretary of his political party, the True Whig Party, and served as doorkeeper and bartender for the party's last national convention in 1856.