The Passing Of An American Giant

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 6: Playwright August Wilson arrives to the opening of "The Gem of the Ocean" at the Walter Kerr Theatre on December 6, 2004 in New York. GETTY

This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
August Wilson died yesterday in Seattle. I doubt most Americans have ever heard of him. Wilson was a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright.

He died too young of liver cancer at age sixty. Wilson was a giant of the American theatre because he knew his craft so well. He knew about story and form and arc. But, above all Wilson was a writer, a chronicler of time and place and people and events. He told the stories of African-Americans. His words, the speeches of his characters will live forever because of the pain and power that infused the language Wilson so skillfully used.

I got to see James Earl Jones in Wilson's "Fences" on Broadway some years back. It was the perfect artistic marriage. Jones as the would-be baseball star stuck in a job collecting garbage, the genius of Wilson's words and the virtuosity of Jones' performance made it unforgettable.

The saddest thing about Wilson's passing — most Americans don't know him.



Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.



By Harry Smith

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