Senators, Congressman Urge Medal of Freedom for Booker

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan urged President Obama yesterday to award African-American journalist Simeon Booker the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States – for his pioneering achievements in the field of journalism and his work to advance the civil rights movement.

Booker has covered every presidential election since 1953 and is the author of two highly acclaimed books: Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Man’s America.

The letter calling for Booker to receive the medal was signed by both Ohio and Maryland senators and 31 members of the House of Representatives.

Booker, often referred to as the “Dean of the Black Press,” began his career writing about Negro League baseball teams 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.

Booker’s coverage of the Emmett Till murder and trial in 1955 helped advance the civil rights movement, turning a common occurrence in the Deep South into a national tragedy that united the African American community. In 1961, he rode with the Congress On Racial Equality 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.

Ryan, Brown and Portman all commented in the news release announcing their support for awarding the medal to Booker.

“Simeon Booker is proof that great journalism can help change the course of history. He stopped at nothing to cover key moments in the civil rights movement and his work helped advance the cause of civil rights in America. There is no honor more fitting for Booker than the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” said Brown, D-Ohio.

“Throughout his long and illustrious career, Booker risked his own safety to bring groundbreaking coverage of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War to the American people, and in doing so forever changed our nation for the better,” said Ryan, D-13 Ohio. “He is a true American hero.”

“By overcoming adversity, Simeon Booker became not only a trailblazer in his field, but also a role model for generations to come. He devoted his life’s work to chronicling the history of the civil rights movement in America and is very deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom,”said Portman, R-Ohio.

Pictured: Simeon Booker.

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