Today marks a special and long overdue homecoming of honor for one of Youngstown’s most dynamic favorite sons.
Ninety years ago, at the age of 5, Simeon Booker Jr. moved to Youngstown from his birthplace in Baltimore. It was here in Youngstown and at The Youngstown Vindicator where he began to cultivate his gifted passion for chronicling the events of his day — specifically those of the city’s growing African-American community.
His reports on the Negro baseball leagues at Idora Park would serve as a springboard for a career as one of the most prolific and most honored black journalists in American history.
From Youngstown, Booker would move on to become the first full-time black reporter at the Washington Post and later to a five-decade career as a writer and bureau chief for Jet and Ebony magazines.
Over those years, he’s been decorated with a multitude of awards: a Nieman fellowship, the Newspaper Guild Award, the National Press Club’s Fourth Estate Award and induction into the National Black Journalists Hall of Fame.
Today, Youngstown State University will deservedly recognize Booker with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree as part of its Fall 2013 Commencement. The honor will in some small way right the wrong of discriminatory treatment toward Booker in the 1930s that compelled him and other promising young blacks to leave the university and the city.
True to his humble character, Booker holds no lasting animosity toward the city or the university. In a 1982 Vindicator interview, Booker reminisced about his formative years. “I’m still proud of Youngstown. It still has a special place for me.”
Suffice it to say that Youngstown, YSU and the entire Mahoning Valley still hold a special and proud place in their history for Simeon Booker Jr.