Randall Pinkston, winner of three national Emmys and one Edward R. Murrow Award as a network correspondent, accepted the 2013 Sam Talbert Silver Em Award from the University of Mississippi in a ceremony at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.
Pinkston is a native of Yazoo County. He retired in May after 33 years with CBS and in September joined the new Al Jazeera America team as a freelance journalist and national correspondent.
“Whether he was on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement or in the press room at the White House, Randall Pinkston reported with clarity and courage,” said Sharyn Alfonsi, Pinkston’s colleague who is now with “60 Minutes Sports.” “He is an intrepid reporter, a gifted story teller and always a true gentleman. I was honored to call him my colleague and proud to call him my friend.”
Pinkston was joined at the ceremony by his mother, Mrs. Clementine Davis, a retired school teacher, and other members of his family. In a brief acceptance speech, Pinkston traced the roots of his interest in news and reporting as a young man growing up in the shadow of the Mississippi Capitol and in an era when black voices were excluded from mainstream media. Watch Pinkston’s comments on YouTube.
The Silver Em dates to 1958 and is the highest award in journalism presented by the University of Mississippi. The criteria limit recipients to Mississippians with notable journalism careers, journalists with notable careers in Mississippi or both, which is the case with Pinkston.
He is a graduate of Millsaps College in Jackson whose first television work was three years with WLBT-TV. That was followed by two years with WJXT-TV, followed by a move to Hartford, Conn., where he worked four years as a reporter, anchor and producer for public affairs programs and specials while also earning his juris doctorate from the University of Connecticut.
In 1980, Pinkston joined WCBS-TV in New York, where he covered New Jersey for 10 years. Pinkston then joined CBS News as White House Correspondent covering the presidency of President George H.W. Bush and traveling with the president. At the end of the Bush presidency, Pinkston was reassigned to New York and covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. intervention in Haiti, the Unabomber story, the standoff with the Montana Freemen and the trial of Susan Smith, accused of killing her children. Pinkston covered the early developments in the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida and, notably, among his last interviews for CBS was with Myrlie Evers Williams, a fellow Mississippian and widow of Medgar Wiley Evers who was assassinated when Pinkston was 12 years old.