About Roger Wilkins
Roger Wilkins was an American lawyer, civil rights leader, journalist, foundation executive before coming to George Mason University as a Robinson Professor of History. He taught, advised and inspired undergraduates for 19 years before retiring in 2007. Wilkins was appointed by President Johnson as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights from 1966 to 1969, the first Black American to attain that rank. After leaving government, he worked for the Ford Foundation before signing on as an editorial writer at the Washington Post, where he won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1973 for editorials about the Watergate affair. He later served on the editorial board of the New York Times. In 1991, he published an autobiography, A Man’s Life.
When Wilkins died in 2017 at the age of 85, his Robinson colleagues joined with Roger’s friends and former employers to establish an annual lecture in his name, to be focused on issues of social, economic and political justice. Steven Pearlstein, a Robinson Professor of Public Affairs and himself an opinion writer for the Washington Post and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, delivered the first lecture, and lecturers since have included a Supreme Court Justice, a New York Times columnist and a law professor and a sociologist whose prize-winning books have changed the way we think about criminal justice and poverty. The annual lecture, under the sponsorship of the undergraduate Philosophy, Politics and Economics program, has attracted large audiences and offers students the opportunity to engage with the speaker before and after the lecture. Video recordings of many of the lectures can be found at https://ppe.gmu.edu/lectures-and-workshops.