Virginia Union’s Simeon Booker, Iconic Civil Rights Journalist, Dies

Simeon Booker, a dean of black journalists with a career spanning the entirety of the American Civil Rights movement, died last Sunday in Maryland. He was 99.

A Baltimore native and Virginia Union University graduate, Booker is credited with breaking the story on the murder of Chicago teen Emmitt Till in Mississippi in 1955. His reporting and images helped to spur the national movement for black equality in labor, criminal justice, housing and social tolerance.

Booker was the first African American hired as a full-time journalist at the Washington Post, and the first African American to serve as a White House correspondent. He spent the largest share of his career at black-owned Johnson Publishing, writing and serving as bureau chief for JET and Ebony Magazines.

“I had a compelling ambition to fight segregation on the front line,” he said in 1982, upon receiving the National Press Club’s Fourth Estate Award for lifetime achievement, according to The New York Times. “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.”

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