J. Anthony Lukas

By Pollak, Richard | The Nation, June 30, 1997 | Go to article overview
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J. Anthony Lukas


Pollak, Richard, The Nation


Serious journalists have never been in great supply in a sensation-mongering profession long content to serve up a thin gruel it calls "news." And in this time of relentless media conglomeration, the dedicated and thoughtful reporter is an endangered species. In this dispiriting atmosphere, J. Anthony Lukas stood apart, and his suicide on June 5 at age 64 is both numbing and a loss we can ill afford.

Tony Lukas believed passionately that journalism was an instrument for social justice. He demonstrated this commitment early on at The Sun in Baltimore with his coverage of racial relations in Maryland and articles on the "caste system of slavery" in which Filipino stewards lived at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. After moving to The New York Times in 1963, he served as a correspondent in the Congo and India and then came home in the late sixties as America was tearing itself apart over the war in Vietnam and social inequality. With eloquence and sensitivity, he captured this division in an article about the two worlds of Linda Fitzpatrick, a teenager from Connecticut, who died in hippie squalor in New York City. The portrait brought him the Pulitzer Prize in 1968 and became the centerpiece of his insightful book about the counterculture, Don't Shoot--We Are Your Children!

For five months in 1969-70, Lukas covered the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, which left him disillusioned with a Times that insisted on replacing David Dellinger's "bullshit" with "barnyard epithet," and that allowed him to portray the courtroom antics of the defendants but sometimes excised his descriptions of Judge Julius Hoffman's prejudicial behavior.

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