Owensboro Photographer Became First Black Man to Win a Pulitzer Prize
Owensboro has made its mark on a national level in a number of ways. I used to love hearing our city mentioned on the news, even though it rarely happened.
I'm recalling the January 3rd, 2000 tornado and a more recent election year when Owensboro's returns were running late getting turned in at the state level and Fox News anchor Shepard Smith referred to us as "the smaller industrial city of Owensboro," a phrase I still remember whenever I'm driving downtown.
We also have had our fair share of celebrities like Johnny Depp, the Waltrips, the Greens, Nicky Hayden, and Florence Henderson (not a native, but we always counted her).
Another one, whose name you may not know, is Moneta Sleet Jr, a photographer who, in 1969, became the first Black man to win a Pulitzer Prize. And he won it for his iconic capture of Coretta Scott King at her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's funeral.
What you see in that image is exactly what a great photographer does. It's art.
The painter has a brush; the photographer has a camera. And in much the same way feelings about paintings are subjective, so are photos. In that image, I see from Mrs. King a great deal of sadness, certainly, but also a fleeting sense that she may have thought her husband's assassination was inevitable. Again, that's just my interpretation. It's a beautiful photograph.
Moneta Sleet Jr. actually spent a lot of time with the Kings, covering Dr. King's acceptance of his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and the march from Selma to Montgomery. He also covered the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955.
Moneta Sleet Jr. passed away in 1996 but not before being present at some of the most important moments in American history and freezing them in time for all of us for all time.