Simeon Booker, an African-American journalist popularly know to be the civil rights chronicler, died Sunday at the age of 99 in Solomons, Maryland.
Born on Aug. 27, 1918, Booker had a journalistic career of more than five decades in various leading publications. He is known for his work during the Civil Rights Movement while working for the Jet and Ebony magazines.
In 1955, his reports on the death of Emmett Till, a 14-year old African-American boy who was brutally murdered in Mississippi, made Booker a noted journalist. His article shocked the nation as it had included a picture of Till’s distorted face.
Booker was born in Baltimore, Maryland. At the age of five, he moved to Youngstown, Ohio, where his father had started a Young christian louboutin men Christian Association (YMCA) for the African-Americans. As a student, Booker wrote stories which were published by Afro American, a well-known newspaper in Baltimore.
After graduating from high school in Youngstown, Booker enrolled himself at the Youngstown College but later took a transfer to Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. Here, when he came to know that the Black students were not given activity cards at the YMCA-sponsored school, he started earning some money by providing publicity for the Virginia Union’s sports teams.
During his summer vacation, Booker would return to Youngstown and published articles about the Negro Baseball League games. In 1942, Booker graduated with a degree in English and he started his career with the Afro-American. He later worked for the Cleveland Call and Post in Ohio. In 1950-1951 he was offered the Nieman Fellowship at the Harvard University.
Booker became the first full time black reporter for the Washington Post in the year 1952. According to the New York Times, Booker was the only journalist in 1961 to support the first Freedom Riders who protested transportation segregation from Atlanta to Birmingham. In 2007, Booker retired at the age of 88. By then he had served as Jet’ s Washington Bureau Chief for 51 years.
Booker has many awards in his casket. From the Newspaper Guild Award and a Wilkie Award, he became the first African-American journalist to win the National Press Club’s Fourth Estate Award for lifetime contributions to journalism in 1982. He was awarded the George Polk Career Award in 2015.
Booker has also penned several books. Black Man’s America, Susie King Taylor, Civil War Nurse, and Shocking the Conscience, a memoir co-written with his second wife, Carol McCabe are a few to name.
According to a report in the New York Times, when Booker received the National Press Club’s Fourth Estate Award for lifetime achievement in 1982, he said, “I had a compelling ambition to fight segregation on the front line.” He added, “I stayed on the road covering civil rights day and night. We ducked into funeral homes at night to photograph the battered bodies of civil rights victims. The names, the places and the events became history.”
Recalling Booker’s retirement party at the National Press Club in Washington, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, Dorothy Height, said to the New York Times, “I always found myself opening Jet and looking first at what he had to say. It was like getting the gospel according to Simeon.”
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