Roger Ebert

On this date in 1942, film critic Roger Ebert was born in Urbana, Illinois. Ebert became an icon in Chicago and around the world as a film critic whose reviews were honest, thoughtful and genuine. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated in 1964 with a degree in journalism. He was the editor of the university’s newspaper, the Daily Illini, and wrote his first movie reviews there.

Ebert moved to Chicago after graduation and began covering stories for the city editor of the Chicago Sun-Times in 1966. He became the newspaper’s movie critic in 1967, a position he held until his death over 40 years later. His work became syndicated in over 200 publications.

In 1975 he started a TV show with Gene Siskel, his counterpart at the Chicago Tribune. They became known for reviewing movies with either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Ebert wrote many books, including several collections of movie reviews, a cookbook of recipes made with a rice cooker and a memoir. Ebert received honorary degrees from the American Film Institute and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

He won a Pulitzer Prize in Criticism in 1975, the first film critic to do so. He was also the first film critic with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2002 he was diagnosed with cancer of the thyroid and salivary glands and underwent several surgeries which removed part of his jaw and left him unable to speak. He continued to review movies throughout his illness and worked until shortly before his death.

Ebert, who grew up Catholic, chose not to define his religious beliefs, saying he is not an atheist and not a believer. He clarified his religious views in a blog post called “How I believe in God.” He said, “I have never said, although readers have freely informed me I am an atheist, an agnostic, or at the very least a secular humanist — which I am. If I were to say I don’t believe God exists, that wouldn’t mean I believe God doesn’t exist. Nor does it mean I don’t know, which implies that I could know.”

Ebert married Chaz Hammelsmith, an attorney, in 1992, and was with her until his death. D. 2013.

Freedom From Religion Foundation