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One year ago: Judi Ann Mason


Judi Ann Mason, who died suddenly one year ago at age 54, was a writer whose work was produced for the stage, TV and film.

A Louisiana native, Mason was attending Grambling State University in the 1970s when she saw a flier seeking submissions for the American College Theater Festival's Norman Lear Award for best original comedy. The award came with a prize of $2,500, Times reporter Dennis McLellan wrote in his obituary on Mason.

"I said, 'Boy, I could sure use that money,' so I wrote 'Livin' Fat,' and it won," Mason told the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 1995.

Mason's winning play -- about a poor black family facing the moral dilemma of whether to keep a large sum of money that had unexpectedly come into its possession -- was produced in New York while she was still in school.

After college, Mason got a job writing for TV producer Lear's sitcom "Good Times." She continued her career as a writer and story editor in television, and in 1993 got a screenwriting credit on the Whoopi Goldberg comedy "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit."

Tina Andrews, another African American film and TV writer, told The Times that Mason "wrote positive, dignified characters, particularly her black characters. She had strong, realistic dialogue. It sounded like your sister, your aunt, your girlfriend: It was real, and I wanted to write like that. That's why she inspired so many of us."

In an appreciation a few weeks after she died, Time magazine reported that Mason wanted to consistently provide good role models for black audiences, not just during Black History Month. "Through her work, Mason made certain that African American history was always on display -- even if it wasn't February."

Read The Times' complete obituary on Judi Ann Mason.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Judi Ann Mason. Credit: Writers Guild of America

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