Mary Tyler Ivins was born in Monterey, California and grew up in Houston, Texas. She graduated from Smith College in 1966, from the Columbia School of Journalism and studied for one year at the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris.
She began her newspaper career with the Houston Chronicle and then moved to the Minneapolis Tribune where she became the city’s first female police reporter. Returning to her home state as co-editor of the Texas Observer, she concentrated on politics and social justice issues. In 1976 Ivins became a political reporter for the New York Times, working first in New York then in Albany and, for three years, covering nine mountain states as Rocky Mountain Bureau Chief. She returned to Texas in 1982 as a columnist for the now-defunct Dallas Times-Herald and then, for nine years, with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001, Molly Ivins became an independent journalist.
Her awards include the William Allen White Award from the University of Kansas, the Smith Medal from her alma mater, the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service and the Pringle Prize for Washington Journalism from Columbia University. She was elected to membership in the National Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her freelance work appeared in many national magazines, and she contributed essays to both the Lehrer News Hour and National Public Radio. She wrote several books, including, Shrub: the Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush. She is an active participant in the journalism network of Amnesty International and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
To honor a journalist as a truth teller is implicitly to comment on the scarcity of courage and candor in a profession ostensibly dedicated to writing and speaking the truth. Molly Ivins is singular in her profession not only for her willingness to speak truth to power but for her use of humor to lampoon the self-seeking, the corrupt and the incompetent in positions of public trust. Her wit and insight place her squarely in the tradition of America’s great political humorists like Mark Twain.