Art Buchwald Biography

Journalist (1925–2007)
Art Buchwald is known for writing humor columns for Paris newspaper The Herald Tribune, and for winning a Pulitzer Prize for Outstanding Commentary in 1982.


Art Buchwald was born on October 20, 1925, in Mount Vernon, New York. His first professional column was for The Herald Tribune in Paris. He returned to the United States in the early 1960s, and continued writing his column. In 1982, he won a Pulitzer Prize for Outstanding Commentary, and he wrote the memoir Leaving Home in 1994. He kept writing until his death, on January 17, 2007, in Washington, D.C.

Early Life

Newspaper columnist, author. Born on October 20, 1925, in Mount Vernon. A humorist and satirist, Buchwald poked fun at much of what was going around him in his illustrious career that spanned more than five decades. It was remarkable that he could find the humor in so many things considering his difficult childhood. The youngest of four children, he spent some of his early days in a facility for orphans and in foster homes. His mother had been institutionalized shortly after his birth and his father was unable to care for Buchwald and his sisters during the Great Depression. Buchwald was later reunited with his father and siblings.

Professional Writing Start

Instead of finishing high school, Buchwald decided to join the United States Marine Corps in 1942. He served in the Pacific during World War II. After the war, he attended the University of Southern California where he worked on the newspaper as a columnist and on a campus magazine as managing editor. He later moved to Paris. It was in Paris that Buchwald started his first professional newspaper column for The Herald Tribune. In his column he offered readers his own light-hearted take on Parisian life. One of his most famous columns from this time had Buchwald explaining Thanksgiving Day to the French.

Commercial Success

While in Paris, he met Ann McGarry and the two married in 1952. The couple later adopted three children - Joel, Connie, and Jennifer. The Buchwalds returned to the United States in the early 1960s, moving to Washington, D.C. He continued writing his column - often with political figures as the target of his famous wit - and became a notable figure in the Washington scene. Buchwald made friends with many influential people from different aspects of American life, including Ethel Kennedy and journalist Mike Wallace. The humor and observations he shared with his readers helped him earn the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Outstanding Commentary. At its peak, his syndicated column appeared in more than 550 newspapers.

Besides his column and other works of nonfiction, Buchwald wrote two novels. A Gift From the Boys, in which he tackled the criminal element, was published in 1958. He took a different approach with The Bolo Caper (1974), trying his hand at the fairy tale. The story was about a leopard that was being hunted. Buchwald also wrote the play Sheep on the Runaway, which had a Broadway run in 1970.

In 1988, Buchwald made headlines not for his popular column, but for his lawsuit against Paramount Pictures over a script idea. He believed that his idea was used as the basis for the film Coming to America, starring Eddie Murphy. After a lengthy court battle, the two sides reached a settlement in 1995. Around this time, Buchwald wrote the 1994 memoir Leaving Home. He again explored his own experiences in I’ll Always Have Paris (1996).

Final Work

Buchwald’s last book, Too Soon to Say Goodbye (2006), chronicles his time at a hospice after being told he only had a short time to live because of kidney problems. He defied doctor’s expectations and lived long enough to reflect on his own passing in this work.

Buchwald continued writing up to until nearly the end and never seemed to lose his sense of humor with one of his last columns ruminating on the number trillion and the absurdity of the national debt. He died of kidney failure on January 17, 2007, in Washington, D.C. He will be remembered as one of the leading humorists and newspaper columnists of the twentieth century.

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