Journalist Claude Sitton, who was a leader among reporters covering the civil rights movement in the South in the 1950s and '60s and later won a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary, has died. He was 89.

Sitton's son Clint said his father died Tuesday in Atlanta. He had been in hospice with congenital heart failure.

Sitton, a Georgia native, began crisscrossing the South for The New York Times in 1958, often setting the pace for other reporters.

Journalist Hank Klibanoff, co-author of "The Race Beat" about coverage of the civil rights movement, said Sitton's work represented "the gold standard."

Sitton served as the Times' national news editor and became editor of The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. In 1983, his commentary for that newspaper won the Pulitzer Prize.