Edwin Milton Yoder was born 18 July 1934 to Edwin Moses and Mytrice M. (Logue) Yoder of Mebane, North Carolina, Yoder attended the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where he edited the school newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1956. As a Rhodes Scholar, Yoder attended Jesus College, Oxford University, where he read philosophy, politics, and economics and received B.A. and M.A. degrees in 1958. That same year, he married Mary Jane Warwick of Tennessee. They had two children, Anne Daphne and Edwin Warwick Yoder. Throughout his career, Yoder remained active in the Rhodes Scholarship program, acting as class secretary and interviewing candidates.
Yoder began his newspaper career as an editorial writer for the Charlotte News in 1958. From 1961 to 1964, Yoder worked as an editorial writer for the Greensboro Daily News, then, taking a sabbatical from the newspaper, he began a one-year position as assistant professor of history at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In 1965, he returned to the Greensboro Daily News as associate editor, a position he held until 1975. Yoder accepted the position of editorial page editor of the troubled Washington Star in Washington, D.C., where he stayed until the newspaper's demise in 1981. He won several prizes for editorial writing including the Pulitzer Prize in 1979.
When the Washington Star folded, Yoder began writing an editorial column for the Washington Post Writers Group Syndicate for which he became nationally known. He continued to write the editorial column until 1997. During this time, Yoder wrote several books, including The Night of the Old South Ball, and Other Essays and Fables; The Unmaking of a Whig and Other Essays in Self-definition; Joe Alsop's Cold War: A Study of Journalistic Influence and Intrigue; and The Historical Present: Uses and Abuses of the Past.
He became professor of journalism and humanities at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va., in 1991.