After 18 years with The New York Times, iconic columnist Bob Herbert penned his final Saturday column. And in a fitting capstone to a career focus on inequality and America’s poor, Herbert’s last op-ed focused on the nation’s wealth disparity.

“Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago… The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.”

Call his analysis grim, but readers could not call Herbert’s writing uninformed. Throughout the years, the columnist often introduced as “The New York Times’ first African-American columnist” proved he was more than any label applied. From his commentary on the wrongful arrests in Tulia, Texas to his series of the recession’s effects in households across the country, Herbert provided an anchor of consistent writing that inspired a higher quality of debate.

New York Times editor Andrew Rosenthal said it was too soon to say who would succeed Herbert but praised his time with the paper saying:

He was often called “the conscience of The Times” and will take his place in the long, proud history of Times op-ed columnists.

Herbert says he was ready to move from the constraints of the 800 word structure that he had followed two times a week for over 25 years throughout his career. In a letter to Times’ staff Herbert, said of his future plans:

I am writing a book called “Wounded Colossus” about some of the great challenges facing the United States and will be part of a new, soon-to-be-announced effort to help bolster progressive journalism in the cause of a more generous and just America.

While we will miss seeing his space on the New York Times’ Opinion page, we’re excited to see what material an unconstrained Herbert has in store.

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  • Very Cool! Great piece about a great writer.

  • WoW

    This is great. People who are not news junkies or who do not read columnist fail to realized that many of them set the tone for many of political debates in on the Hill.

    Sadly, today more columnist have fallen victim to talking heads or pundits and are caught up in this 24/7 news cycle which is very vile and hateful.

    But why is he retiring his pen at such a young age.