Remembering Simeon Booker…

I don’t often do this… But I read an amazing obituary of Simeon Booker this morning, embarrassingly not someone I had ever heard of:

Booker, though familiar with the indignities of segregation, later wrote that, as a northerner, he was unprepared for the “state-condoned terror” in Mississippi at the time…

Kown simply as “the man from Jet”, Booker, in his signature bow tie and glasses, attended most of the major events of the civil rights struggle. He was the only reporter aboard the 1961 “Freedom Rides”, a bus trip across the south protesting against the refusal of southern states to implement a Supreme Court order to integrate interstate transport. A violent mob attacked Booker’s bus. He was rescued and taken to safety at a local preacher’s house.

There, he took a call from attorney-general Robert F Kennedy to explain the day’s events. “That was probably the best reporting I did in my journalism career,” Booker told Ebony, “explaining to Kennedy what happened.”

Stories he wrote about a 14 year old being murdered by a two white men (later acquitted after 67 minutes of deliberation) made Rosa Parks refuse to give up her seat on the bus… and the rest is history.

An amazing man who led an amazing life. Great obituary (free) in the NYT here.

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