Journalism Legend Simeon Booker, Polk Winner, Dies at 99

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Booker shown with McCray. Photo: Media Genesis Solutions LLC

[Comment]

Simeon Booker, the trailblazing journalist who chronicled the Civil Rights Movement for Jet and Ebony Magazines and a 2016 George Polk Career Award winner, died yesterday at the age of 99.

I will never forget standing beside him at the Polk Awards podium bracing him up with my left hand on his lower back waiting for him to speak. When no words came forth I became worried. I leaned over and said, "You're on."

He looked over at me and said, "You want me to speak?"

"Yes," I said.

Booker looked out at the audience and paused for what seemed like an eternity; and then gems flowed from his lips: "I’m happy to have lived this long—almost a hundred and I hope I can make it to a hundred. But it’s been a very inspiring life to start at the very bottom and work your way up. When I started Blacks didn’t even think about writing letters to one another let alone writing a column weekly and news stories and other journalistic items. But I appreciate you recognizing me and recognizing the struggle Blacks have had in this country to gain a footing. I appreciate it and I don’t want to deliver a sermon even though my father was a preacher and I learned a lot of tricks of the trade (laughter). I appreciate it. Thank you a million. God bless you."

Booker didn't make it to 100 but he was smart, fearless, and intrepid. A class act all the way.

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