Simeon Booker, Bernice King Honored on Eve of March

Barrington M. Salmon | 8/23/2013, 3:05 p.m. | Updated on 8/28/2013, 3 p.m.
Simeon Booker may be 94, but as radio host Joe Madison noted Thursday night, the veteran journalist has lost none ...
Simeon Booker and Rev. Bernice King Photo Courtesy of Maria Bryk/Newseum

At one point, Booker said, an angry President Lyndon Johnson summoned Ebony Publisher John H. Johnson to Washington in an attempt to intimidate him into firing Booker.

“He went to the White House and had tea,” Booker said with a chuckle. “I didn’t change and Johnson stayed with me. I give him a lot of credit.”

Green wasn’t the only civil rights activist in the audience, among them was Joan Mulholland, a Freedom Rider and passionate activist.

“The chance to hear Simeon Booker is just amazing. Obviously, he’s not as agile but it was wonderful to see him. I don’t remember our paths crossing but Jet reporters were everywhere.”

Mulholland, 71, remembered her time as a young woman at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss., where she was the roommate of another civil rights icon Joyce Ladner. “Nineteen sixty-three was a horrible year. They killed Medgar Evers, Gov. George Wallace stood (in front of the Alabama State Capitol) where he declared segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever. I worked in the office of the March on Washington and the march itself was a great, wonderful moment. But things went downhill from there.”

King, the youngest daughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King, received the 2013 NCNW Dorothy I. Height Distinguished Leadership Award from Ingrid Saunders Jones, chair of the National Council of Negro Women.

King, 50, was also in town to take part in activities surrounding the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 28.

During her remarks after receiving the award, King said she could no more step away from her name and what it represents than a person could separate herself from her shadow.

“Perhaps the easiest thing for me is to be Bernice and the hardest thing for me is to be Bernice King,” said King, an ordained minister and CEO of The King Center in Atlanta, Ga., an organization founded by her mother in 1968 to protect and promote the King legacy. “Bernice would want to leave the stage and sit in the back of the room. I am socially shy but task oriented. Often in my life, people have misunderstood my demeanor. I’m getting better …”

King, who was five years old when her father was assassinated in 1968, discussed the subject of leadership, defining her idea of what it means.

“Leadership is not just position or influence,” she said. “I think it’s about character. We desperately need leaders [with] character more than ever before.

Her father, she said, embodied character and integrity, and when he spoke, he encapsulated the fiber and substance of these attributes.

“He was truly loyal to what he believed and that was trust, justice and what was right,” she said. “When he encouraged people to give up their instinctual right to defend themselves that showed his power.”

Lois Scoon, and her husband Malcolm waited in line to have books signed and expressed satisfaction.

“It was impressive to hear traditional thoughts on civil rights,” said Malcolm Scoon, a physician and Upper Marlboro resident. “Hopefully, we can capture as much as possible before they go.”

His wife exulted at meeting Booker.

“I told him that for many years in law school, I read about him. It was wonderful and an honor to meet him,” said Lois Scoon, who works as a civil rights lawyer with the federal government. “… strong black men inspire me.”