WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), and Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH-13), today urged President Obama to award African-American journalist Simeon Booker the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honor bestowed by the President of the United States – for his pioneering achievements in the field of journalism and his work to advance the civil rights movement.
“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.
“Simeon Booker surely deserves this prestigious award. 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. 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,” said Ryan.
“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.
This letter was signed by both Ohio and Maryland Senators and 31 members of the House of Representatives. The full letter can be found here.
Simeon 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, 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 (CORE) 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.
Simeon 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; 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; Master Communicators Award, National Black Media Coalition, 1998; Phoenix Award, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, 2010; Inducted into Hall of Fame, National Association of Black Journalists, 2013.