The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Rudolph Pyatt Jr., Washington Post local business columnist, dies at 88

Rudolph A. Pyatt Jr. in 2000. (Marie Marzi/FTWP)
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Rudolph A. Pyatt Jr., a Washington Post journalist who retired in 2000 after 19 years writing a twice-weekly column on local business, died Jan. 7 at a hospital in Clinton, Md. He was 88.

The cause was complications of dementia, said his wife, Jacqueline Pyatt.

Mr. Pyatt was among an early corps of Black journalists who cracked the segregation barriers of Southern newspapers when he began his career in 1964 at his hometown publication, the Charleston (S.C.) News & Courier.

He became a Washington correspondent in 1968 but soon left for work as a reporter at WETA, the Washington-area public TV station. He also spent a few years as director of public affairs for the D.C. public schools and as a consultant in the Washington mayor’s office before joining the Washington Star as a writer and editor. After the paper closed in 1981, he joined The Post and wrote his business column focused on economic development, taxes, commercial real estate and local government.

In his farewell column, Mr. Pyatt wrote about changes he had witnessed in the Washington business world and the closing of mainstays such as Garfinckel’s, the Woodward & Lothrop department stores and the Perpetual Federal Savings Bank.

“The old establishment (a close-knit, conservative fraternity) has given way to a new order of corporate princes and princesses, wielding power and influence and flaunting newfound wealth from the headquarters of Internet and telecommunications companies, highly paid consultants’ offices, and, yes, law firms and real estate developers,” he wrote. “The area’s economy may be stronger, but things just aren’t the same without the likes of Israel ‘Izzy’ Cohen, who built Giant Food into a retail powerhouse.”

As for himself, he wrote, “I have reached the point where I feel it’s time for a change.”

Rudolph Augustus Pyatt Jr. was born in Charleston, S.C., on Jan. 15, 1933. His father was a tailor and his mother a teacher. He graduated with an English degree in 1956 from South Carolina State College (now university), a historically Black institution in Orangeburg.

After Army service, he tried to find work as a journalist but said he found doors closed to him because of racism. He spent several years as a high school teacher, focusing on English and journalism. His students won journalism awards, and he wrote in a Post biography that he was “recruited” as a result to the News & Courier.

“It was the fulfillment of a boyhood dream that had been deferred by the South’s long and stubborn embrace of segregation and by the newspaper industry’s hypocrisy and duplicity about race,” Mr. Pyatt wrote in his farewell Post column.

In retirement, Mr. Pyatt was active in community affairs in his neighborhood of Fort Washington, Md. Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Jacqueline Bell Pyatt of Fort Washington; twin sons, Rudolph A. Pyatt of Brooklyn and Randolph A. Pyatt of Bryans Road, Md.; and two grandchildren.

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