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1989 Horatio Alger Award Winner

Art Buchwald*


"Never do anything to make you ashamed of your name. I've always put a lot of emphasis on the family name."

Born in Mount Vernon, New York, in 1925, Art Buchwald was the son of a down-on-his luck curtain manufacturer. His mother died when he was a baby. Unable to care for his children, Buchwald's father placed him and his three older sisters in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in New York. After that, he was raised in a series of foster homes.

A child of the Depression, he worked from the age of nine until he dropped out of high school to join the Marines at age 17. His childhood jobs included selling Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post, which earned premiums for items such as roller skates as well as a little spending money. Once he earned the skates, he started a delivery service. He wore his skates and pulled a wagon loaded with shoppers' bags. Buchwald charged five cents a bag delivering packages for shoppers at his local A&P, and advertised his service on a card he had stuck on his wagon. It said, "Buchwald Delivery Service-We Deliver Everything but Babies." At 12, he started delivering flowers to wealthy Park Avenue residents. He was a mailroom boy at Paramount Pictures when he was 14, working after school from 4 to 8 p.m. each night.

Buchwald served in the Pacific during World War II, and when that was over decided he wanted to go to college. Although he had no high school diploma, he enrolled as a freshman at the University of Southern California. When USC discovered its mistake, he was allowed to stay on as a special student, but was ineligible for a degree. In college, he was manager of the campus humor magazine, Wampus. He also wrote a column for the college newspaper. After three years of college, he bought a one-way ticket to France and lived in Paris for the next 14 years.

While in Paris, he wrote a column, "Paris after Dark," for the New York Herald. In 1951, he wrote "Mostly about People," which featured interviews with American celebrities who were visiting Paris. In 1962, he returned to the United States with his wife, Ann, and took up residence in Washington, D. C. His writing took on a new direction-political satire. Within a year, he added 75 papers to his syndication roster and was soon a fixture on the Washington political scene. In 1982, Buchwald was honored with the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

In addition to his column, Buchwald published more than 25 books. Two are guides to Paris, two are children's books, and one is a novel. The rest are collections of his writings. A much sought-after public speaker, Buchwald gave about 45 paid speeches a year. He also made about 25 benefit appearances annually. Because of his foster home background, he was particularly interested in charities that have to do with children, such as the Children's Defense Fund. "I applaud the Horatio Alger Association's scholarship program," he once said, "which is giving kids who need it the most a chance to get an education and be all they can be."

When giving advice to his young audiences, as well as his own three children, Buchwald said, "Never do anything to make your family ashamed of you. I think I'm proudest of the fact that I never shamed my family name."

* Deceased