Born: September 19, 1954
Ohio connection: Birth
Wil Haygood was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1954. His parents divorced soon after his birth and he was raised by his mother, Elvira Burke Haygood, a cook, and his grandparents, whom he credits for teaching him right from wrong. Haygood graduated from Franklin Heights High School and then attended Miami University of Ohio where he majored in Urban Studies. After earning a bachelor’s degree in 1976, he began work as a reporter for the Call & Post, an African-American newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio. His other journalism jobs included working at a copy editing desk at the Charleston Gazette in West Virginia (1981-83) and working as a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (1984-1985). His performance in Pittsburgh drew the attention of the Boston Globe, where he worked for roughly the next seventeen years. Haygood published his first book in 1986, Two on the River, an account of his travels down the Mississippi. A biography of politician Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. titled King of the Cat followed in 1993. By the time Haygood’s third book appeared, The Haygoods of Columbus: A Love Story (1997), he was receiving job offers from other newspapers on a regular basis. In 2002, Haywood joined the Washington Post, where he wrote, “A Butler Well Served by this Election,” a story about White House butler Eugene Allen; it became the basis for the award-winning film The Butler. Haygood is also the author of In Black and White: the Life of Sammy Davis Jr. (2003), Sweet Thunder: the Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson, (2009), The Butler: A Witness to History (2013) and Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America (2015).
Wil Haygood is the Boadway Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence in the Department of Media, Journalism & Film, at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
National Headliner Award, National Headliners Club for outstanding feature writing, 1986; Fellow of Alicia Patterson Foundation, 1988; New England Associated Press Award and International Reporting Award, National Association of Black Journalists, both 1990; Finalist for Pulitzer Prize in featuring writing, 1991; Sunday Magazine Editors Association Award for profile writing and Doctor of Humane Letters from Ohio Dominican College, both 1993; Ohioana Book Award for nonfiction for The Haygoods of Columbus: A Love Story, 1998; 2016 Scribe Book Award from the American Society of Legal Writers for Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America.