Ohio Reps Work to Award Civil Rights Journalist Booker

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan and Dave Joyce introduced bipartisan legislation Monday to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to Youngstown-native Simeon Booker in recognition of his achievements in journalism and commitment to civil rights.

“His long, trailblazing career in journalism and his commitment to telling the stories of the civil rights movement changed our nation for the better,” said Ryan. “Mr. Booker dedicated his life’s work to breaking barriers and changing the hearts and minds of all those he touched through his writing. He was a true American hero who deserves a place in the history books.”

“Simeon Booker dedicated his career to covering the civil rights movement and achieved many firsts in his field,” added Joyce. “We’re proud that Mr. Booker started his journalism career in Youngstown and believe he’s a worthy recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal.”

Simeon Booker began his career covering Negro League baseball for the Youngstown Vindicator. In 1950, he received the Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and develop his talent as a reporter. After one year at Harvard, Booker became the first full-time African-American reporter at the Washington Post. In 1955, he helped advance the civil rights movement with his famous coverage of the Emmett Till murder and trial — turning a common occurrence in the Deep South into a national tragedy for all to see. In 1961, he rode with the Congress On Racial Equality (CORE) Freedom Riders through the Deep South. When they were firebombed and beaten by the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama, Booker arranged for their rescue by calling U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Simeon Booker is often celebrated as the “Dean of the Black Press.” He covered every presidential election since 1953 and was the author of two books: “Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement” and “Black Man’s America.”

His honors and awards included the Nieman Fellowship, Harvard University 1950; President of the Capitol Press Club, 1956; Fourth Estate Award, National Press Club, 1982: Hall of Fame, Washington Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi and Washington, D.C. 1984; Master Communicators Award, National Black Media Coalition, 1998; Phoenix Award, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, 2010; and Hall of Fame, National Association of Black Journalists, 2013.

Pictured: Simeon Booker

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