Simeon Saunders Booker Jr. (August 27, 1918 – December 10, 2017) was an African-American journalist whose work appeared in leading news publications for more than 50 years. He was known for his journalistic works during the civil rights movement and for his coverage of the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till. He worked for The Washington Post, Jet, and Ebony.
Booker in an undated photo
Simeon Saunders Booker Jr.
August 27, 1918
|Died||December 10, 2017 (aged 99)|
Solomons, Maryland, U.S.
|Alma mater||Virginia Union University|
|Spouse(s)||Carol Booker (until his death)|
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Simeon Saunders Booker and Roberta Waring Booker, Booker moved with his family to Youngstown, Ohio, when he was five years old. There, his father opened a YMCA for African-Americans.
While attending Madison Elementary School in Youngstown, he wrote a poem that was published in the local newspaper, the Youngstown Vindicator.
Booker graduated from high school in Youngstown and then enrolled at Youngstown College, but transferred to Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, when he learned that Black students were denied activity cards at the YMCA-sponsored school. He earned money during college by providing publicity for Virginia Union's sports teams. He graduated from Virginia Union with a degree in English in 1942.
Booker returned to Youngstown during summer vacations and published articles about the Negro league baseball games there. Upon graduating with a degree in English, he took his first job with the Afro-American. Booker later returned to Ohio and worked for the Cleveland Call and Post, where a series he wrote concerning slum housing earned him a Newspaper Guild Award. Booker was offered a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in 1950–51.
In 1952, Booker became the first black reporter for The Washington Post. Booker was best known for his reporting during the civil rights movement while working for Jet and Ebony magazines. His coverage of the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi and the subsequent trial is one of the most noted pieces of journalism from the era. Booker retired in 2007 at the age of 88, after serving as Jet's Washington Bureau chief for 51 years.
Booker served as the Washington, D.C. bureau chief of the Johnson Publishing Company, interviewing presidents, members of Congress, as well as notable civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph and James Farmer.
During his long career, Booker was recognized by his peers with numerous awards, including a Wilkie Award. In 1982, he became the first African-American journalist to win the National Press Club's Fourth Estate Award for lifetime contributions to journalism.
Booker died on December 10, 2017, in Solomons, Maryland, from pneumonia-related complications, at the age of 99. He is survived by his wife Carol McCabe and three children: Simeon III, Theresa, and Theodore. A memorial service for Booker was held on January 29, 2018, in Washington National Cathedral.
- McFadden, Robert D. (December 10, 2017). "Simeon Booker, Pioneering Reporter on Race Issues, Dies at 99". The New York Times. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
- Langer, Emily (December 10, 2017). "Simeon Booker, intrepid chronicler of civil rights struggle for Jet and Ebony, dies at 99". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
- Franko, Todd (June 9, 2013). "He forced America to see what the white press dared not report". The Vindicator. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
- Haygood, Wil (July 15, 2007). "The Man From Jet: Simeon Booker not only covered a tumultuous era, he lived it". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
- Harris, Hamil (December 14, 2017). "In Memoriam: Life of Simeon Booker Jr". Baltimore Afro-American. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
- "Simeon Booker, 88, Retires From JET Magazine" Archived July 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Johnson Publishing Company press release, January 23, 2007.
- Lois Fiore, "Nieman Notes" Archived October 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Nieman Reports (nieman.harvard.edu), Spring 2007.
- "Programs & Events: NPC Award Winners Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine", National Press Club.
- 2013 Hall of Fame Induction and Reception, National Association of Black Journalists; retrieved January 15, 2013.
- Barron, James (February 14, 2016). "New York Times Journalists Among Winners of 2015 Polk Awards". The New York Times. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
- "Simeon Booker, 1982 Fourth Estate Awardee, nominated for Congressional Gold Medal". National Press Club. February 8, 2017. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
- "Simeon Booker, civil rights reporter and 1951 Nieman Fellow, nominated for Congressional Gold Medal". Nieman Foundation for Journalism. February 13, 2017. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
- Price, Richard (January 5, 2018). "Simeon Booker Services Set for National Cathedral". Journal-isms. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
- "An unforgettable chronicle by the first full-time African American reporter for the Washington Post, and Jet magazine's White House correspondent for a half-century". University Press of Mississippi. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
- "Susie King Taylor, Civil War Nurse by Simeon Booker". Kirkus Reviews. August 4, 1969. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
- "Simeon Booker". The HistoryMakers. August 1, 2007. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
- Simeon Booker, "A Negro Reporter at the Till Trial", Nieman Reports, January 1956.
- Simeon Booker, "My Jet Years — 1953–2006", Jet, November 13, 2006.
- W. Ralph Eubanks, "Remembering the Pioneering Black Journalist Simeon Booker, 'The Man from Jet'", The New Yorker, December 12, 2017.
- Howard W. French, "The Legacy of Simeon Booker, a Pioneer of Civil Rights Journalism", The New York Times, December 13, 2017.
- Amber Larkins, "Sixty-Five Years of Covering the News", American Journalism Review, December 2012/January 2013.
- Curtis Stephen, "Simeon Booker Was a Leader Among Early, Unheralded Reporters on Race", Columbia Journalism Review, December 15, 2017.
- Simeon Booker Obituary, (Washington, The Associated Press/AP, 2017) legacy.com