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James J. Kilpatrick (born November 1, 1920) is an American columnist and grammarian.

Kilpatrick began writing his syndicated political column, "A Conservative View," in 1964, after he had spent many years as an editor of the The Richmond News Leader. Once a fervent segregationist, he changed his position over many years' reflection and subsequently renounced his former thinking, though he remained a staunch opponent of actual or perceived federal encroachments upon the individual states.{"The Race Beat: The Press, the civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation; Roberts and Klibanofs)

Kilpatrick is perhaps best known for his nine years as a debater on the TV news magazine 60 Minutes. He appeared in a closing segment on each show in the 1970s called "Point-Counterpoint," opposite Nicholas von Hoffman and, later, Shana Alexander). The showdown was parodied most famously on NBC's Saturday Night Live, where Dan Aykroyd, playing Kilpatrick's alter-ego, would invariably shout "Jane, you ignorant slut!," to which Jane Curtin, modeled after Alexander, would retort "Dan, you pompous ass."

In 1979 Kilpatrick joined the Universal Press Syndicate as a columnist, eventually distributed to more than 180 newspapers around the country.

Kilpatrick went into semi-retirement in 1993, shifting from a three-times-a-week political column to a weekly column on judicial issues, "Covering the Courts," which ended in 2008. For many years he also wrote a syndicated column dealing with English usage, especially in writing, called "The Writer's Art" (also the title of his 1985 book on writing). In January 2009, the Universal Syndicate announced that Kilpatrick would end this column because of health reasons. By that time he had built an empire on the English language and was known to many as the nation's leading authority on the disciplined use of diction and the art of fitting words together.

His other books include The Foxes Union, a recollection of his life in Rappahannock County, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains; Fine Print: Reflections on the Writing Art; and, A Political Bestiary, which he co-wrote with former U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy and Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Jeff MacNelly.

In 1998, Kilpatrick, then a widower, married a second time, to liberal Washington-based syndicated columnist Marianne Means.


  • The Sovereign States: Notes of a Citizen of Virginia. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1957.
  • The Smut Peddlers: The Pornography Racket and the Law Dealing with Obscenity Censorship. Doubleday, 1960.
  • The Foxes' Union, EPM Publications, Inc., 1977.
  • A Political Bestiary, Viable Alternatives, Impressive Mandates & Other Fables (with Eugene McCarthy and Jeff MacNelly), 1978.
  • The American South: Four Seasons of the Land (with William A. Bake). Oxmoor House, 1983.
  • The Writer's Art. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1985. ISBN 0836279255
  • The Ear Is Human: A Handbook of Homophones and Other Confusions. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1985. ISBN 0836212592
  • Fine Print: Reflections on the Writing Art. Andrews Mcmeel Publishing, 1993.

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