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Simeon Booker

Magazine and newspaper reporter Simeon Saunders Booker, Jr. was born on August 27, 1918, in Baltimore, Maryland to Roberta Waring and Simeon Saunders Booker, Sr., a YMCA director and minister. After his family moved to Youngstown, Ohio, Booker became interested in journalism through a family friend, Carl Murphy, the owner and operator of Baltimore's The Afro American Newspapers. In 1942, after receiving his B.A. degree in English from Virginia Union University in Richmond, Booker took a job at the The Afro American Newspapers as a young reporter. In 1945, he moved back to Ohio to work for the Call and Post. Five years later, Booker was the recipient of the Nieman Fellowship from Harvard University to study journalism and develop his talent as a reporter. After leaving Harvard in 1951, Booker became the first full-time black reporter at The Washington Post.

In 1954, Booker was hired by the Johnson Publishing Company to report on current events in its weekly digest, Jet. In 1955, Booker helped to redefine the role of Jet and the entire Civil Rights Movement with his famous coverage of the Emmett Till murder and trial, turning an all too familiar event in the Deep South into a national tragedy that united the black community. Booker remained on the dangerous front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, reporting on the 1957 integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1961, Booker rode with the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) Freedom Riders through the Deep South. When the buses were fire bombed in Anniston, Alabama, Booker arranged the Freedom Riders’ evacuation with U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Continuing his work of in-depth reporting, Booker toured Vietnam and interviewed General Westmoreland for Jet in the mid-1960s. In 1964, Booker outlined the importance of the ongoing Civil Rights Movement in his book, Black Man’s America.

Booker covered every Presidential election since the Eisenhower Administration in his fifty-three years with Johnson Publishing until he retired in 2007. In 1982, Booker received one of the most prestigious awards in journalism, the National Press Club’s Fourth Estate Award.

Booker passed away on December 10, 2017 at age 99.

Accession Number

A2007.223

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/1/2007

Last Name

Booker

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Youngstown South High School

Youngstown State University

Virginia Union University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Simeon

Birth City, State, Country

Baltimore

HM ID

BOO02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

Chesapeake Bay

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

8/27/1918

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak

Death Date

12/10/2017

Short Description

Magazine reporter and newspaper reporter Simeon Booker (1918 - 2017 ) worked for Johnson Publishing Company for fifty-three years, covering the Emmitt Till Murder and Trial, the Freedom Rides and the events of the Civil Rights Movement.

Employment

Washington Post

Jet Magazine

Call and Post

Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper

Favorite Color

Gray

Timing Pairs
0,0:391,4:8523,112:18178,209:18566,214:59324,765:75940,901:82624,981:82968,990:100406,1066:112290,1207:134825,1473:150424,1632:158450,1751:184505,2047:184991,2055:185801,2072:186773,2087:187583,2099:188798,2126:189122,2131:189446,2136:197552,2270:240614,2651:253184,2851:254438,2865:282004,3156:286650,3222$0,0:4574,17:5582,32:6422,44:27830,467:36334,562:39990,579:40632,586:41167,592:44270,621:45233,631:134295,1470:134675,1475:135055,1480:135530,1486:136005,1492:136480,1498:137050,1505:137715,1514:142400,1577:192372,2048:202394,2144:204717,2177:207212,2189:207667,2195:208031,2200:208850,2211:209578,2220:212945,2278:213582,2313:223795,2391:224745,2404:234360,2552:249840,2691:250096,2697:252950,2735:254193,2750:255549,2770:256001,2775:277550,2961
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Simeon Booker's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Simeon Booker lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Simeon Booker describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Simeon Booker describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Simeon Booker describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Simeon Booker describes his father's legacy

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Simeon Booker describes his mother's role at the YMCA

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Simeon Booker lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Simeon Booker recalls the Third Baptist Church in Youngstown, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Simeon Booker remembers his early education

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Simeon Booker recalls the start of his career in journalism

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Simeon Booker recalls attending Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Simeon Booker narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Simeon Booker recalls working for the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Simeon Booker remembers working for the Call and Post newspaper

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Simeon Booker recalls winning a Nieman Fellowship

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Simeon Booker remembers working for The Washington Post

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Simeon Booker remembers covering the murder of Emmett Till, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Simeon Booker remembers working for Johnson Publishing Company

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Simeon Booker remembers covering the murder of Emmett Till, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Simeon Booker recalls covering violence in the South

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Simeon Booker remembers covering the Freedom Rides

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Simeon Booker narrates his photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Simeon Booker recalls investigating racial discrimination in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Simeon Booker remembers covering the Little Rock Nine

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Simeon Booker describes his relationship with the FBI, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Simeon Booker recalls the expansion of news coverage at the Johnson Publishing Company

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Simeon Booker talks about prominent civil rights leaders

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Simeon Booker remembers attending notable funerals

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Simeon Booker reflects upon youth leadership

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Simeon Booker remembers the Vietnam War

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Simeon Booker talks about immigration

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Simeon Booker remembers John H. Johnson and Robert Johnson

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Simeon Booker remembers Frank Wills

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Simeon Booker narrates his photographs, pt. 3

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Simeon Booker remembers working as a radio commentator

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Simeon Booker describes his relationship with the FBI, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Simeon Booker remembers President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Simeon Booker recalls the mentorship of John H. Johnson

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Simeon Booker recalls directing the Washington, D.C. bureau of Jet magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Simeon Booker talks about his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Simeon Booker describes the Roosevelt Student Co-operative Housing Association in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Simeon Booker recalls his decision not to join the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Simeon Booker describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Simeon Booker reflects upon his life

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Simeon Booker reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Simeon Booker reflects upon the changes in the press

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Simeon Booker recalls adopting his son

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Simeon Booker narrates his photographs, pt. 4

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Simeon Booker narrates his photographs, pt. 5

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

9$1

DATitle
Simeon Booker remembers covering the Freedom Rides
Simeon Booker recalls investigating racial discrimination in Washington, D.C.
Transcript
You were brave enough and wanted the story bad enough to get on one of the Freedom Rides. Tell us about that.$$Well, that was some time later when Farmer, Jim Farmer [James Farmer], decided to have a Freedom Ride from Washington [D.C.] to New Orleans [Louisiana]. I got on with a freelance photographer because I couldn't get my own photographer to take any dangerous trip like that. We joined them. We traveled two buses from Washington to someplace to someplace to--finally got to Atlanta [Georgia]. And Reverend King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] told me, "Booker [HistoryMaker Simeon Booker], you'll never make it to New Orleans. They're gonna whale at you once you get out of here," and I don't know how he knew, but he was right. I was on the first bus that got through. Second bus got stopped, turned over, burned, really just--I--wouldn't believe it. We got all the way into Birmingham [Alabama], I think, wherever we were going, and they, they had to go back and bring the other people back out. Terrible thing. It was--and I had to call John Edgar Hoover's [J. Edgar Hoover] office. I knew one of his associate directors, Deke DeLoach [Cartha DeLoach]. Man, send help. These people will never get out of here. And we sat in that airport where people just went around--guards were all around us 'til the plane came. We got on and flew down to New Orleans.$$That was the only way you made it to (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) That was the only way I make it out. But I had a lot of close experiences and I always wore old clothes, carried a Bible, always was--never allowed my picture to be taken anywhere. That's why of all these pictures you have, you don't see any of me in the South, always taken afterward. I have one picture I noticed, I was going down the road with King and Wilkins [Roy Wilkins] and I--you could just see my head in there. That's one of the few pictures that I have of me on the march in the South. I just wouldn't allow any pictures, just too dangerous.$$The, the se- the first bus made it through, but the second bus was stopped and burned, you said. Did you know some people on that second bus?$$Oh, yeah, we knew my--one of my--I was split up going one, my photographer would be on the other. We, we would all split up so we'd have, have representation on both buses. But, Moses Newson was a afro, was on that bus that was burned, and he changed his life. And Jim Peck [James Peck], I'll never forget his face, so bloodied, all cut away. And the doctor from Detroit [Michigan], oh, he got so badly beaten. And you always remember and, and you can see it and feel it.$$The, the justice department [U.S. Department of Justice] did look into that. I don't know--$$Oh, yeah. The justice department not only looked into it, they furnished protection when these same Freedom Rides decided to go back to Birmingham and finish the march. They gave them protection for the rest of the way in, so they made the march just as they had planned. But it was a dangerous venture and the tactic of Freedom Ride in the South at that time was very dangerous. But those people had the guts to go through with it and you had to give them a lot of credit for that.$Now in 1963, two schools in the District of Columbia [Washington, D.C.] had what was described as a racial riot, St. John's [St. John's College High School, Washington, D.C.] and Easton [sic. Eastern High School, Washington, D.C.], and you heard about this and you got involved in it. Tell us about that. Give us the details.$$Well (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) How did you first hear about it?$$That was the first time I'd ever been out in the middle of such a racial muddle. At the end of the Thanksgiving football game, the black, all black Easton High School team just rioted after being defeated by St. John's parochial school in Washington [D.C.]. The team charged across the field, started beating up fans, people, everybody, just tore everything loose. I was so distressed, I wrote a letter to all the three daily papers protesting the conduct on the black students, saying I was black and somebody should speak out about their conduct and do something to improve conditions in the school for them. Well, man, they slashed the tires on my car and, oh, they just--a certain group of blacks. But in the end, the superintendent named a ten-person committee to investigate the situation and I was a member. And I was--became the chief writer of the report of the committee, and I look at it as one of the finest things I have done in my public career to improve racially, not being quiet when if you speak out you can do some good.$$Right. The--this was just nine years after Brown versus Board of Education [Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954]. What made you--or made it so important that you speak out and join Carl Hansen's commission to explain this or make a report on it?$$Well, I think you always have to do your part to develop a harmonious community. You can't sit aside and not speak up. I couldn't be running all over the South protesting discrimination of whites against blacks when in my own City of Washington, I remain quiet when blacks overwhelm whites at a football game, and I think that was the thing that did it. It bounced me off 'cause I then became much more fruitful in my approach. I knew what I was doing and where I was going.$$And there were blacks who resented what you had to say in that report and your involvement.$$They did, but you always will have that and you have to learn how to stand up beside, despite it.$$You said they slashed your tires in--$$Oh, they (simultaneous)--$$--(simultaneous) in retribution.$$Oh, they really did me in.$$Anything else?$$Did me in. I never was really appreciated for doing it. People never remembered it, but I regard it as one of the bravest things I've ever done, and it had some good.$$What, what was the good that came out of it that you saw?$$Well, it made a lot more people aware of participating in civic activities and proving the plight of blacks underclass who have no opportunities to participate in opportunities where they can grow. That was it.

Vernon Smith

Journalist and author Vern E. Smith was born Vernon Emile Smith on February 13, 1946, in Natchez, Mississippi, where he spent the majority of his youth. Smith attended San Francisco State University, where he was a member of the school’s Black Student Union and served as sports editor and columnist for the campus daily newspaper. Smith met his wife in 1967, graduated from San Francisco State University in 1969, and, soon after, attended the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

In the summer of 1969, Smith joined the staff of the Independent, Press-Telegram in Long Beach, California. Smith joined Newsweek as a correspondent in 1971 after being recruited by John L. Dotson Jr., the magazine's then Los Angeles bureau chief, the first African American to hold that title. Smith was assigned to the Detroit bureau where he learned from veteran writers Jim Jones and Jon Lowell. Smith won the Detroit Press Club Foundation’s annual magazine writing award for a Newsweek article entitled “Detroit’s Heroin Subculture,” which informed his 1974 novel The Jones Men, recommended by the The New York Times and re-published by W.W. Norton in 1998.

In 1973, Smith was transferred to Atlanta, where he covered Maynard Jackson’s campaign to become Atlanta’s first African American mayor and Hank Aaron’s ordeal as he broke Babe Ruth’s Major League Baseball home run record. While in the South, Smith wrote articles about several unsolved civil rights murders and covered the trials of the Klansmen convicted in the 1963 church bombings in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four little girls. In 1979, Smith became Newsweek’s Atlanta Bureau chief. In 1980, Smith covered the Atlanta Child Murders. As a reporter for Newsweek’s Special Projects Unit, Smith contributed to four cover stories that were later published as books, including “Brothers,” the true story of fellow black journalist Sylvester Monroe’s roots in Chicago’s housing projects, and “Charlie Company,” which was awarded the 1981 National Magazine Award. Smith also wrote about George Corley Wallace, the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, Strom Thurmond, and the Little Rock Nine. After covering the 1996 Summer Olympic games in Atlanta, Smith was named a Newsweek National Correspondent in 1997.

Smith wrote numerous articles for several publications including Ebony, Crisis, GEO, The Sunday Times of London, and TV Guide. Smith also contributed to My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience, published in May of 2004 as part of the Voices of Civil Rights Project.

Accession Number

A2005.182

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/2/2005 |and| 8/26/2005

Last Name

Smith

Maker Category
Organizations
Search Occupation Category
First Name

Vernon

Birth City, State, Country

Natchez

HM ID

SMI10

Favorite Season

Christmas, Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Favorite Quote

How's My Boys?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

2/13/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Salmon

Short Description

Author and magazine reporter Vernon Smith (1946 - ) is an award-winning journalist who has written for Newsweek and the New York Times, among many other publications.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:3422,22:5584,54:5960,59:13582,146:18262,236:19718,261:22734,321:25958,388:26686,396:31240,403:31608,408:32160,415:37680,547:46171,680:46850,688:47335,694:53370,800:58130,931:69510,1059:70320,1070:70680,1075:72660,1116:93010,1478:106150,1606:109910,1680:124764,1910:130258,1995:130586,2024:135342,2101:140836,2208:151195,2325:156382,2447:159749,2514:160932,2530:163389,2574:171943,2738:182588,2795:184700,2832:193061,2960:200341,3082:206893,3202:214258,3245:214755,3253:215370,3259$0,0:4092,59:6944,92:7564,99:8308,107:15285,160:15660,165:18510,238:29390,432:30820,459:36210,517:62404,824:63444,830:64588,899:65108,905:88468,1172:91822,1251:92338,1258:92682,1263:93198,1270:104020,1370:105420,1386:105920,1392:109486,1441:110346,1453:112926,1508:113356,1514:114216,1522:114646,1529:114990,1534:117312,1578:120236,1624:127057,1697:130543,1760:133946,1837:146630,2051:147660,2091:190964,2548:193998,2609:201392,2758:202080,2769:205176,2813:212946,2910:224855,3046:225243,3051:229608,3168:233100,3261:244061,3500:248038,3566:260607,3730:273470,3910
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Vernon Smith's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith describes his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes where his maternal grandparents met

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith remembers spending time with his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith describes his mother's childhood in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith remembers his mother's gift for writing and the detailed letters she wrote him when he was a college student

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Vernon Smith talks briefly about his maternal aunts

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Vernon Smith describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Vernon Smith describes his parents' first house in Natchez, Mississippi during the Depression era

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith describes his childhood neighborhood in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes College Heights, a subdivision for black families in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith describes moving to College Heights in Natchez, Mississippi, and the community's demographics

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes his paternal family ancestry

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes his paternal grandfather's business selling coal and ice

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith describes his paternal grandmother and lists his paternal aunts and uncles

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith describes his paternal grandfather's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith recalls his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith remembers an incident that disqualified the myth of racial inferiority

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes the black professional community in Natchez, Mississippi and remembers the lynching of three African American residents

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about the emergence of a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about his relationship with the former president of the Britton and Koontz bank in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith remembers police misconduct in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith explains the history of Natchez, Mississippi settlers, and remembers his grandfather settling an altercation involving his uncle

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about racially blended families in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith describes the development of his mistrust of government and the contradictions of white racism

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes his experience at Prince Street Elementary School in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith describes his experience at Sadie V. Thompson High School in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes the culture of education in the 1950s

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about racial violence and police surveillance in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about the murder of Sam O'Quinn in Centreville, Mississippi and the assassination attempt made on George Metcalfe, president of Natchez NAACP

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about his participation in a protest of the firebombing of a local grocery store

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith remembers discovering a neighborhood peddler had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Vernon Smith describes his early interest in writing

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Vernon Smith talks about relocating to San Francisco, California and being admitted to San Francisco State University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith talks about his uncle, Otis Smith, of the Otis Smith Orchestra

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes his experience at San Francisco State University

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith lists influential figures in his journalism career including Leo Young and Lynn Ludlow of the San Francisco chronicle

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes his experience as a copy boy for the San Francisco Chronicle

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes his experience in the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at Columbia University, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith describes the influence of black journalist Joseph Strickland

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about starting his first full-time job at Long Beach Press-Telegram, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith talks about covering the death of journalist Ruben Salazar for Long Beach Press-Telegram

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Vernon Smith explains how he got to Newsweek, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Vernon Smith remembers turning down an earlier internship opportunity at Newsweek from Bill Flynn, the San Francisco bureau chief

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Vernon Smith explains how he got to Newsweek, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Vernon Smith describes meeting his wife

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith describes his experience as a junior correspondent in the Newsweek magazine Detroit bureau

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes writing an article about Detroit, Michigan's heroin epidemic in 1971

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith explains how his first novel, 'The Jones Men,' was conceived

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes the recognition he received for his first novel, 'The Jones Men'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Hank Aaron's pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run record, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about relocating to the Newsweek bureau in Atlanta, Georgia in 1973

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Hank Aaron's pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run record, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith lists black journalists that influenced him including HistoryMakers Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Paul Delaney

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of the second session of Vernon Smith's interview

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about the reorganization of the Negro Student Association into a black student union at San Francisco State University

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about the onset of the Black Power Movement and the 1966 March Against Fear

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about a basketball injury and the organization of an athlete's strike at San Francisco State University

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes his experience in the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at Columbia University, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about starting his first full-time job at Long Beach Press-Telegram, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about the migration of African Americans back to the American South

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith describes contemporary race relations in Georgia, and talks about the close proximity between blacks and whites the American South

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith speculates on why Atlanta, Georgia is seen as the "Black Mecca"

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about Atlanta politics, including Maynard Jackson's mayoral campaign and HistoryMaker John Lewis' Voter Education Project

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Hank Aaron's pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run record, pt. 3

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about speculation around Babe Ruth's racial identity and Hank Aaron's history in the Negro Leagues

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about the reopening of the investigation of the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the Atlanta child murders

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith talks about HistoryMaker Lee P. Brown's involvement in the Atlanta child murders investigations

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about conspiracy theories surrounding the Atlanta child murders

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about collaboration between Georgia's black and white communities in an effort to resolve the Atlanta child murders

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes patterns in connection with the Atlanta child murders

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about the discovery of Wayne Williams, lead suspect in the Atlanta child murder investigation, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about the discovery of Wayne Williams, lead suspect in the Atlanta child murder investigation, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith describes the Atlanta child murder trial in 1982

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith describes Wayne Williams' sentencing in the Atlanta child murder trial 0f 1982 and talks about the reopening of Williams' case in 2005

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith talks about the formation of Newsweek's special projects unit and its first special report, 'Charlie Company: What Vietnam Did to Us'

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about his contribution to Newsweek's special project, 'Brothers,' chronicling the lives of black men from the Robert Taylor Homes

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about HistoryMaker Jesse L. Jackson's controversial anti-Semitic remarks

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about Newsweek's cover story on Afro-centric curriculums

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Spike Lee

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about Spike Lee's influence

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the Mariel boatlift, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the Mariel boatlift, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith talks about HistoryMaker Andrew Young's appointment as United States Ambassador to the United Nations in 1977

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about HistoryMaker Andrew Young's meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization as UN Ambassador

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about Jimmy Carter's presidency, including Carter's Playboy interview and relationship with Martin Luther "Daddy King," Sr.

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Atlanta, Georgia's bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes the controversy surrounding the expansion of MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the murder of Alberta King, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s mother, in 1974

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith describes covering James Earl Ray's escape from Brushy Mountain Prison

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Vernon Smith talks about the King family's attitude toward James Earl Ray

Tape: 11 Story: 10 - Vernon Smith talks about two murders in his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi: Ben Chester White in 1966 and NAACP treasurer Wharlest Jackson in 1967

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$6

DAStory

2$6

DATitle
Vernon Smith describes writing an article about Detroit, Michigan's heroin epidemic in 1971
Vernon Smith talks about relocating to the Newsweek bureau in Atlanta, Georgia in 1973
Transcript
And I remember when I first got to Detroit [Michigan] from California, and I had this sense of Detroit, you know, the home of Motown and, and the cars and all of that, and so, but, but when I got there, the local news was full of these stories about, you know, people being found bound and gagged and you know, in a dope house. And you know, and then, then I would--you know, I had some friends there, high school friends, who had migrated to Detroit after high school in Natchez [Mississippi], and so I had kind of like a little natural kind of community there when I arrived. And you know, I would ask guys, you know, like, you know, "What is it with--you know, what are they talking about here, you know, these dope houses?" And, and, and I go into a, a, a convenience store, and you know, the entire front of the store would be like in Plexiglass (laughter). You know, what I mean? And there would be like a little window that you would put your money in, you know. And I'm like, "What is going on here?" And so, you know, I started like trying to figure out what this was all about. And I realized that there was a big heroin ep--epidemic in, in Detroit, and so, I started researching it. I sent this long story suggestion to, to the national affairs editor, the front of the book section, and it was long. And most, most story suggestions are, you know, wanna be a page or less, you know, 'cause they got a lot to read. But this stuff, I was like so taken with this subject that it was like two pages. And [Jim] Jones wasn't there. Probably if Jones had been there, it wouldn't have run that way, so--$$Right.$$--but it's running. So when Jones gets back from some meeting, you know, this story suggestion is running, and I--and Jones went to the, to the room, the teletype room where we sent copy. And he said, "What is, what's all this?" You know, he's holding, (laughter) he's holding this up, you know. He was like, "It's too late now."$$Yeah.$$It's gone. And so the next week, story suggestions went in on Friday, Thursdays and Friday, Thursdays for the back of the book; Friday's for the front of the book. So, and then, then on, on Monday the editors would meet and they'd go over all of it or Saturday probably look at 'em, and then they'd like decide what to put in the book. So, we get in Monday and I got this query from the editor of the nation saying, you know, we're planning the schedule, you know, you're great, 'Jones.' I, I called it Jones.$$Okay.$$That was, that was, that which was, which was a slang for the drug, heroin, and also the habit, you know. And actually I called it, I think I called it the, 'The Jones Men.' I did call it 'The Jones Men,' because I, I--the, the way I set the story up was, was to, I talked about it as the Jones men were, were a different kind of a new kind of ghetto gangster; you know, they're the Jones men, the men who supply the heroin to, you know, the, the junkies. And so they liked it, and they scheduled it, and then I went out and I reported it. And then it ran in, in the national affairs section. I forget the, the, the title of it. No, I know the title. It was called 'Detroit's Heroin Subculture.' And that was really like my first big national affairs story.$But I was about to say about, about my--coming back to the South, having grown up here, and when I went to work for Newsweek, I, I really wanted to stay on the West Coast, but Detroit [Michigan] was where they had the opening. And so my deal was if you go to Detroit and you work out okay, you know, when we get an opening, you can go to San Francisco [California] or L.A. [Los Angeles, California], okay. So I was thinking okay, cool. So, but while I was there, no openings, and we were ready, ready to, to leave Detroit. And so they had an opening in Atlanta [Georgia], and so this is supposed to be my weigh station, you know, back to the West Coast. But I got here in the, in the spring of '73 [1973], when the big story was Maynard Jackson's running for mayor, first black mayor of Atlanta [Georgia]. And so, you know, that was a big story and then the sort of changing South. The other story that I wrote very early was about the remigration of, of black folk to the South, you know, the generation that I had left in. This was only about a decade ago. I had left in '64 [1964]. And then by '73 [1973], you know, after the Voting Rights Act, and all these changes that had been wrought by the Civil Rights Movement, you know, a lot of people were coming back home. And so, this was a, a story, the, the sort of New South, you know. There was even talk even there, and Jimmy Carter [James Earl "Jimmy" Carter] talking about running for president in a couple of years, and you know, a lot of those stories that I knew about when I was going up there. They were still alive, and I wanted to write about that stuff. And I liked living in Atlanta. I sort of liked the, the ferment that was going on here, you know, the sort progressive kind of black community, and, and, and you know, the Maynard Jackson story was a big story. And so I thought, boy, this is a pretty good place to be a national reporter right now, you know. And so, you know, and when an opening came up, I, I really was interested in staying where I was. I liked where I was working. As I said, it was like I could drive to see my mom [Rosetta Valentine Smith], you know, in, in, in a day; you know, my brother was still down here, and so, so it was like coming back home. And so, even though I was having this success as a novelist, I was also just kind of getting into my career as a journalist. And so, people said well, I know you're gonna quit now and write books, you know, you got these rave reviews, but I, you know, I was like no, I don't wanna do that just yet. I don't, I don't think I wanna like get away from reporting, you know, I don't think I wanna go sit off by myself and like write note novels, not just yet. I think I'll still, I'll, I'll still like to do that, but reporting is really what I, I saw myself as, you know. I like going out and talking to people and getting stuff, you know. And I also like chasing the news you know, being like, there, when big, important stuff happen, you know, sort of like you either, you either like this stuff, and you realize that early on, or you, or you, or you get out of it, you know. I mean I think talent is part of it. Talent and energy is what I think, you know, 'cause you can get a lot of people that have talent.$$Right.$$If you don't have energy because, you know, being a reporter, being a, a national reporter is, is pretty demanding. There's a lot of--$$Very taxing.$$--you know, a lot of travel and stuff. But you know, it was also exciting, you know, and, and, and, and I really would go for great stretches, and then I'd be like, man, I gotta get off this treadmill. And then when I got out of it for a while, and then I was a like okay, there's nothing happening, you know, there's nothing breaking here, you know, I wanna go back and get into the saddle again, you know. And, and so, that's kind of the way it was for me, you know.