BY AL HUTCHISON
Special to The Tampa Tribune
In the 1960s, when he was a rookie Tampa Tribune sportswriter fresh out of the University of South Florida, Mike Pride would often walk past the State Desk where Steve Raymond, an assistant state editor, worked.
Probably because of the difference in their ages, or maybe because they worked in different areas of the newsroom, the two journalists, one young and one old, didn’t meet.
So Pride, who would later become the acclaimed author of several history books (mostly about the Civil War), had no clue that Raymond was a survivor of the notorious Bataan Death March in 1942 and had spent the rest of World War II in Japanese prison camps where brutality was an everyday occurrence.
Nor did Pride know that as he got older, Raymond’s most urgent wish was that his account of his wartime ordeal would some day be published as a book.
The two finally met in 2003 as Pride, acting on a request from a mutual friend, agreed to help Raymond get his story told in the form of a book.
Raymond’s meticulously — you might even say miraculously — maintained diary provided all the gruesome details that Pride needed to complete the project that Raymond had been nurturing for decades.
Their book is called “Too Dead To Die,” and Raymond and Pride are listed as co-authors. But Raymond, were he still alive, would be the first to tell you that Pride did the heavy lifting when it came to preparing the book for publication.
A graduate of Clearwater High School, Pride is in the news just now because on Sept. 1 he will become the administrator of the prestigious Pulitzer Prizes, which are managed by Columbia University.
Although he is 67 and has been more or less retired since 2008, Pride is eminently qualified for the job, although it may interfere with his other career as an author of highly regarded history books.
He left The Tampa Tribune in the early 1970s to become city editor of his hometown newspaper, The Clearwater Sun, then worked for the Tallahassee Democrat before he was recruited to manage the news operations of The Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor.
From then on, Pride and his newspaper collected one honor or award after another.
He was selected for a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University. In 1987, the National Press Foundation named him “Editor Of The Year” for directing his paper’s coverage of the Challenger disaster that took the life of a Concord school teacher, Christa McAuliffe.
And The Concord Monitor won the New England Newspaper Association’s “Newspaper Of The Year” award in its circulation category 19 times.
The list goes on and on. But none of this has gone to Pride’s head. He and his Belgian-born wife, Monique, are as down to earth as anyone you could ever meet.
And it all began in Tampa, perhaps at the University of South Florida or maybe in that long-ago Tampa Tribune newsroom on Kennedy Boulevard.
Or was it at Clearwater High School?
Wherever it began, it has surely become glamorous with Pride taking charge of the most prestigious prizes in all of journalism, letters, drama and music.
The Pulitzers are in good hands.
Al Hutchison is a retired newspaper editor and executive who lives in Citrus County.