The day Acel Moore won the Pulitzer Prize

John Carroll, who was at The Philadelphia Inquirer when Acel Moore and Wendell Rawls won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977, told the story of what happened the day the newsroom learned that they had won. This is taken from a Carroll speech about the Pulitzer Prizes that was included in William Safire’s 2004 book “Lend Me Your Ears:”

 

“The first Pulitzer winner I knew well was Acel Moore, who in 1977 won for investigative reporting at The Philadelphia Inquirer. Acel had earned it. He had no college degree, and only after a long apprenticeship as a clerk was he promoted to reporter. He was, in short, a man who had written his share of obits, which, often as not in Philadelphia, were phoned in by a large funeral home called Levine’s.

When word reached the newsroom that Acel had won a Pulitzer we all cheered and clapped him on the back and drank champagne, and then his phone began to ring with calls from well-wishers.

One reporter, a charming rascal named John Corr, slipped to the back of the newsroom and dialed Acel’s extension.

Acel picked up the phone thinking it was another well-wisher. Instead, the voice on the phone said, ‘Hey Acel, this is Bernie at Levine’s. I got one for you.’

Acel paused, no doubt pondering whether his post-Pulitzer life would include taking obits, from Levine’s. Then, with resignation in his voice, he responded, ‘Okay, lay it on me.’

That, I submit, was the correct answer. Few of us are brilliant enough to transcend the drudgery of our chosen craft. If we shun the mundane, if we partake only in the glamour of the job, we risk forfeiting all those skills and attitudes and connections that got us here in the first place.

We sever our roots at our peril.”

(Acel remembered that day: “They were playing with me,” he said recently.)

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