Lynne Duke | Journalist, 56

Posted: April 22, 2013

Lynne Duke, 56, a journalist who brought an emotional clarity to the most trenchant stories, from the crack epidemic that terrorized a Miami housing project to the legacy of apartheid South Africa, died Friday at her home in Silver Spring, Md.

The cause was lung cancer, said her husband, Phillip Dixon, a former city editor for the Washington Post and former managing editor of The Inquirer. She worked at the Post from 1987 to 2008, retiring as a Style-section editor after assignments reporting from Johannesburg and New York.

She once aspired to a career in dance and theater, and brought the expressive qualities of those arts to her journalism.

Covering South Africa was a defining experience for her. She first went there for the Post in 1990, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years. She returned in 1994 for the nation's first multiracial election and stayed on to cover Mandela's presidency.

In Mandela, Mobutu and Me, her 2003 memoir about her years in Africa, she wrote of feeling connected to a "vast African narrative that resonates within me like an ancestral whisper.

"But sometimes the whisper was a scream," she added, "for I also had to grapple with ugly Africa: The Africa of horror and unspeakable brutality; the Africa that sometimes made me question the existence of God; the Africa that I could not ignore if I was to claim the continent as my own."

Ms. Duke began her career at the Miami Herald after graduating from Columbia University's journalism school in 1985. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for a 1987 feature article about the violent fallout of crack cocaine and intransigent poverty at a Miami public housing project.

Her first marriage ended in divorce. Survivors include her husband; her father, Hubert Duke; her mother, Constance Duke-Allston; and three siblings. - Washington Post

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