Simeon Booker (August 27, 1918 – December 10, 2017) was an African-American journalist whose work appeared in leading news publications for more than 50 years. He was known for his journalistic works during the civil rights movement and for his coverage of the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till. He worked for The Washington Post, Jet, and Ebony.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Booker moved with his family to Youngstown, Ohio, when he was five years old. There, his father opened a YMCA for African-Americans.
While a high school student in Youngstown, some of Booker’s stories were published in the Baltimore Afro American, a prominent African American newspaper.
Booker graduated from high school in Youngstown and then enrolled at Youngstown College, but transferred to Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, when he learned that Black students were denied activity cards at the YMCA-sponsored school. He earned money during college by providing publicity for Virginia Union’s sports teams.
Booker returned to Youngstown during summer vacations and published articles about the Negro league baseball games there. Upon graduating with a degree in English, he took his first job with the Afro-American. Booker later returned to Ohio and worked for the Cleveland Call and Post, where a series he wrote concerning slum housing earned him a Newspaper Guild Award. Booker was offered a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in 1950–51.
In 1952, Booker became the first black reporter for The Washington Post. Booker was best known for his reporting during the civil rights movement while working for Jet and Ebony magazines. His coverage of the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi and the subsequent trial is one of the most noted pieces of journalism from the era. Booker retired in 2007 at the age of 88, after serving as Jet’s Washington Bureau chief for 51 years.
During his long career, Booker was recognized by his peers with numerous awards, including a Wilkie Award. In 1982, he became the first African-American journalist to win the National Press Club’s Fourth Estate Award for lifetime contributions to journalism.
On January 17, 2013, Booker was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists’ Hall of Fame. In 2015, he was awarded the George Polk Career Award.
In February 2017, 17 members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bipartisan bill nominating Booker for a Congressional Gold Medal.