Rick Atkinson is on book leave from The Washington Post, where he most recently served as assistant editor for investigations, a position that gave him responsibility for investigative reporting at the newspaper. Atkinson’s career in journalism began at The Pittsburg (KS) Morning Sun in 1976; in 1977, he moved to The Kansas City Times, where he worked for six years as a suburban police reporter, city desk reporter, and a national reporter based first in the Midwest and then in Washington. In 1983, he joined the national staff of The Washington Post as a general assignment reporter, and subsequently covered the Pentagon and the 1984 presidential election. He served for two years as deputy national editor, supervising reporters responsible for defense, diplomacy, and other national security beats. After return from a book leave in 1989, he worked as a reporter on the newspaper’s investigative staff, producing series on the B-2 bomber, public housing, and the savings and loan scandal. In 1991, he wrote most of the newspaper’s lead stories on the Persian Gulf War. Following another book leave, in 1993 he became the Post’s Berlin bureau chief, covering not only Germany and NATO, but also spending considerable time in Somalia and Bosnia. He returned from Europe to become assistant managing editor in 1996.
Born in Munich, in the Federal Republic of Germany, Atkinson is the son of a U.S. Army officer and grew up on military posts. He holds a master of art degree in English literature from the University of Chicago. He is the author of two best-selling books, The Long Gray Line, a narrative account about West Point’s class of 1966, and Crusade, a narrative history of the Persian Gulf War. His awards include the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting and the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for public service, awarded to The Post for a series of investigative articles conceived, directed, and edited by Atkinson on shootings by the District of Columbia police department. Other awards include the 1983 Livingston Award for international reporting, the 1989 John Hancock Award for Excellence, the 1990 George Polk Award for national reporting, and a 1990 PEN special citation for non-fiction.
Atkinson currently is working on subsequent volumes in the Liberation Trilogy, a narrative history of the American Army in North Africa, Italy, and Western Europe during World War II. He and his wife, Dr. Jane Atkinson, assistant dean and professor of oral medicine at the University of Maryland dental school, live with their two children in the District of Columbia.
--photo credit: Sigrid Estrada