Born in Tennessee in 1925, Carl Rowan spent much of his childhood dealing with the “Jim Crow” laws in the South, but he still graduated as the valedictorian/class president of Bernard High School in 1942.
Starting a Career
Rowan was determined to graduate from college, which he paid for by working for a tuberculosis hospital. Eventually he received a master’s in journalism from Minnesota, using money earned by writing for the Minneapolis Spokesman and the St. Paul Recorder.
In 1950, he became a general assignment reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune and became the first African American to win the “Outstanding Young Man” award. He wrote three well-received books, the first of which was entitled South of Freedom. He won the “Sigma Delta Chi” award three times, the only journalist to do so. He was appointed deputy assistant secretary of state for public affairs in 1961. Later in his career, Rowan won an Emmy for “Drug Abuse: America’s 64 Billion Dollar Curse,” a documentary.
While Rowan reached about 100 different papers in his day, his life was not without adversity. He was rejected from the prestigious Cosmos Club for racial reasons, and his application was never revisited after a non-discriminatory law was passed. At 62, he shot and wounded a trespassing teenager. The gun wasn't legally his, and ironically, he was a strict gun control supporter. The hypocrisy charges were dropped, and Rowan maintained that he was still in favor of more gun control.