Randy Richardson has been selected 2017 Communicator of Achievement by the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.

This prestigious award is the highest honor given by the IWPA to members who have distinguished themselves within and beyond their profession.

Each year an award recipient, chosen from nominees selected by state affiliates is nationally recognized for exceptional achievement in the communications field, service to National Federation of Press Women and to the community. The COA Award winner and the runner-up are announced at the Communicator of Achievement Award Banquet scheduled during NFPW’s annual conference.

Randy Richardson: journalist, attorney, author, literary community builder – and the 2017 COA.

Randy began college in 1980 learning how to fly airplanes at Parks College in Cahokia, Illinois. His career as a pilot, however, never took off (pun intended) and after a year he transferred to St. Louis University, then Illinois State University, where he graduated in 1985 with degrees in economics and political science. Not sure what to do with the double-major, Randy applied to journalism school and, to his great surprise, was accepted to the University of Illinois’ graduate school of journalism with a full tuition waiver. His final project in the program – an in-depth profile of Mark Fairchild, one of two followers of far right conservative Lyndon H. LaRouche to win the Illinois Democratic primary in 1986 in stunning upsets (Fairchild for lieutenant governor and Janice Hart for secretary of state) – was published in the Daily Illini, the independent school newspaper of the University of Illinois.

After graduation, Randy moved to Northern California where he spent the next two and a half years working at small newspapers – two years as the county reporter for the Martinez News-Gazette, and six months as a general assignment reporter for the Union Democrat in Sonora. In 1989, Randy returned to Illinois and started working as a freelance reporter covering the courts for the The Times of Northwest Indiana’s south suburban bureau.

That work led Richardson back to school at Northern Illinois University College of Law, where he graduated with a degree in law in 1994. He returned to The Times after graduation as a full-time staff writer, covering the courts and Calumet City government. In 1995, a series he co-wrote with Michelle Kurtz about several unsolved crimes in the town of Glenwood, Illinois went on to be honored by the Illinois Press Association.

In 1996, Randy left journalism for a career as an attorney for the Social Security Administration’s disability appeals branch where he continues to work as a senior attorney advisor and has twice received the Deputy Commissioner’s Citation.

While working as an attorney, Randy started writing a murder mystery that was loosely based on his own experiences living in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood in the late-1990s. That became his first published novel, Lost in the Ivy, which the online publication Gapers Block named one of the notable books of 2005.

With the publication of his first novel, Randy began to look for connections in the Chicago writing community. That led him to the Chicago Writers Association and to the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Richardson also started writing a blog about his experiences in publishing a book and being a new dad in his early 40s. Some of those parenting essays went on to be published in Chicago Parent magazine and in Chicken Soup for the Father and Son Soul. One of those essays, Pickles and Hiccups, took first place for web writing in the 2006 National Federation of Press Women’s Communications Contest.

It was also in 2006 that Chicago Writers Association formed as a not-for-profit organization and Randy was elected as its first president, a position he has served in for eight of the CWA’s first 10 years. In that time, CWA has grown to more than 500 dues-paying members and established itself as one of Chicago’s leading writing communities with its own annual book awards, speakers’ bureau, online literary magazine, writing contest, and book review service. This year CWA is expanding to include educational programming with plans for a writers’ conference in 2018.

His personal writing library has grown to include a second novel, Cheeseland, published in 2012 by Chicago’s Eckhartz Press, which also re-released a revised edition of Lost in the Ivy in 2014.

Richardson has also written extensively about the World Champion Chicago Cubs, which started in 2008 as co-founder, along with Donald G. Evans, of the Lovable Losers Literary Revue, a monthly live entertainment series that took place at the El Jardin restaurant in Wrigleyville. That culminated in publication of Cubbie Blues: 100 Years of Waiting Till Next Year (Can’t Miss Press), to which Randy contributed as a writer and assistant editor. Since 2013, he’s been a regular contributor to the Wrigleyville Nation blog.

Randy lives in Evanston, where he’s coached youth baseball for eight years. He and his wife have a son and two cats, Smokey and Bandit.

IWPA is honored to have such a model communicator represent the organization at the National Federation of Press Women competition at the national conference in Alabama this September. He will be recognized by IWPA at at the 76th Annual Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest Luncheon on Saturday, May 13.