Joseph Mohbat was a man of sharp wit, warmth and dignity who cheered for his colleagues’ successes. Respected for his kindness and admired for a certain sparkle, he went out of his way to help those on the way up. He was an enthusiastic and memorable mentor to numerous young people who sought his help with their writing.
A Worth Bingham Prize-winning investigative reporter, he was selected by the Associated Press for one of journalism’s highest honors – a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard.
As a young AP reporter in Washington, D.C., his clear and incisive writing about the Voting Rights Act and other major legislative issues of the day attracted much attention. His colorful profiles of famous public figures such as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Attorney General and later presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy gained him a reputation for clarity, compelling reporting and a witty writing style.
Mohbat’s early and remarkable success in political journalism stemmed from his extraordinary writing talent and a keen interest in language. From an early age, he developed his special, often playful facility with words that would later nourish his journalism career. Through his writing he was able to attract the mentors who helped advance his career at critical moments.
But it was his inspired writing that determined the course of Mohbat’s life. From his father, he learned passion for precise language. His early success in journalism reached another level when he was assigned to cover the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy. Writing regularly from his position at RFK’s side, Mohbat reported the inside story of Bobby Kennedy the man as no one else did.
Like Joe Mohbat, Verdery Knights enjoyed using language creatively in the act of writing. A member of Benjamin Banneker Academy 2009 senior class, Verdery came to the country at age 13 from Trinidad. A tragic injury ended her life early in her high school senior year. Intellectually curious and multitalented, she was passionate about expressing herself through her writing – poetry and journalism especially. She wanted to use journalism to change the world.
Besides writing, she expressed her creativity in many other ways – fashion, photography, and athletics. She had exceptionally high hopes and expectations for herself. She believed she could accomplish whatever she set her mind to.
Here is Verdery in her own words at age 17: “Natural talent has always been the source of my career choice, journalism. I knew from a very young age that I needed to write about things that mattered and that my writing would be the one tool that would help me carve my name in history, and help initiate change on some level.”