Trailblazing Civil Rights Journalist Simeon Booker Dies at Age 99

Journalist Simeon Booker (center) is presented with a Phoenix Award at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 18, 2010. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP Images)

Simeon Booker, the trailblazing black journalist known for detailing African-American life in Ebony and Jet magazines, died Sunday at the age of 99 in an assisted-living community in Maryland.

Booker had many accolades under his belt, including having been the first full-time black reporter at the Washington Post. He is also credited with bringing the horrific 1955 lynching of Emmett Till to the nation’s attention. His article, as the Associated Press notes, included the open-casket picture of Emmett’s badly brutalized face. His murder in Mississippi ultimately became a launchpad for the civil rights movement.


His iconic reporting in the Deep South also placed him in danger, AP notes. Tributes mention that he was known to sometimes dress as a minister or a farmer to escape scrutiny.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Youngstown Ohio, Booker started his career as a journalist working for several black publications. He later joined the Post in 1952 but then moved on to found the Washington bureau for Johnson Publishing, the parent company behind Jet and Ebony.

He remained in that position for more than half a century, covering 10 presidents during his storied tenure, and even traveling abroad to report on the Vietnam War. He eventually retired in 2007.

Booker was also the author or co-author of four books, including his 2013 memoir, Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement.


Booker was ultimately inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists’ Hall of Fame in 2013 and also received a George Polk Award for lifetime achievements in journalism. He was also the recipient of the National Press Club’s Fourth Estate Award.

Read more at the Associated Press.

Share This Story

About the author

Breanna Edwards

News Editor at The Root, animation nerd, soca junkie, yogi