U.S. representatives Dave Joyce and Tim Ryan introduced legislation recently to award a Congressional Gold Medal to civil rights reporter and icon Simeon Booker in recognition of his achievements in the field of journalism.
"Simeon Booker dedicated his career to covering the civil rights movement and achieved many firsts in his field, including becoming the first African-American reporter to win a Newspaper Guild Award and the first full-time African-American reporter at The Washington Post," said Joyce, who represents northern Portage County as part of Ohio's 14th Congressional District. "We're proud that Booker started his journalism career in Youngstown, and believe he's a worthy recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal."
"I couldn't think of a more worthy American than Simeon Booker to be awarded Congress's highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal. His long and illustrious career in journalism and his work to advance the civil rights movement has forever changed our nation for the better," said Ryan, who represents southern Portage County as part of Ohio's 16th Congressional District.
"Simeon Booker has devoted his life's work to breaking barriers and changing the hearts and minds of all those he touched through his writing . He is a true American hero."
Booker 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 University, 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 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.
Booker is often referred to as the "Dean of the Black Press." He 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."
His honors and awards include: Nieman Fellowship, Harvard University, 1950; elected president of the Capitol Press Club, 1956; Fourth Estate Award, National Press Club, 1982; inducted into Hall of Fame, Washington Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, and Hall of Fame of Washington, D.C., 1984; inducted into Hall of Fame, National Association of Black Journalists, 2013.