Like the award's first recipient, Jimmy Breslin, the late Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko (1932-1997) carved out a reputation as one of America's best all-around news columnists. For more than 30 years, Royko was a vital part of Chicago journalism, whether bemoaning the fate of his beloved Chicago Cubs, skewering some new yuppie trend or conversing with his alter ego, the barroom philosopher Slats Grobnik.
His reputation extended far beyond the Windy City. Readers of the Washington Journalism Review picked Royko at America's top columnist three years in a row. He won just about every major award in the business, including the Pulitzer, the H.L. Mencken, the Ernie Pyle and the Haywood Hale Broun awards.
Royko's newspaper career started during the Korean War, when he talked his way into an Air Force base newsletter. His column made its first appearance in 1963 at the Chicago Daily News. He moved to the Chicago Sun-Times in 1978. When media mogul Rupert Murdoch acquired the Sun-Times in 1983, Royko made a much-publicized leap to the Chicago Tribune.
He wrote six books, including the classic, Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago. His syndicated column appeared in more than 200 newspapers.