Gene Herrick, photographer who snapped iconic shots of Rosa Parks, dead at 97

Gene Herrick

RICH CREEK, Va. — Gene Herrick, an Associated Press photographer who chronicled the early years of the civil rights movement and the Korean War during the 1950s, died Friday. He was 97.

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Herrick’s longtime companion Kitty Hylton, said that he died at a nursing home in Rich Creek, Virginia, according to The Associated Press.

According to his obituary, Herrick was born on July 26, 1926.

During his career, Herrick captured images of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and the trial of the suspected killers of Emmitt Till.

In 1956, Herrick photographed Parks being fingerprinted after she refused to move to the back of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, the AP reported. That same year he snapped a photograph of King, smiling while he was being kissed by his wife, Coretta Scott King, on the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse after he was found guilty of conspiracy to boycott Montgomery’s buses.

In a 2020 interview with the AP, Herrick said it was rare to capture a photo of King smiling.

“I knew he was going to be let out of jail that morning,” Herrick said. “And all these people were out there on the steps waiting for him, including his wife, who reached out and gave him a big kiss.”

“He was so proud to be a journalist. That was his life,” Hylton told the AP. “He loved The Associated Press. He loved the people of the AP. He was so grateful to have had all the adventures that he had.”

Herrick also covered the trial of two white men accused of killing 14-year-old Till, a Black youth who was abducted in Mississippi after allegedly flirting with a white woman. The teen’s body was found tortured and lynched. The two men were found not guilty by an all-white jury and admitted their guilt the following year in an interview with Look magazine.

Herrick said he was particularly proud of his Korean War coverage.

“Good journalists want to go where the action is, wherever it is,” he said in an AP article in 2018.

Herrick also covered sports, Elvis Presley and five U.S. presidents.

“God and the AP have given me opportunities I could never have had,” Herrick said in 2018. “I mean, I’m the luckiest kid in the world to have done what I’ve done.”

Arrangements were supervised by Conner-Bowman Funeral Home, in Rocky Mount, Virginia, according to Herrick’s obituary.