MU honors photojournalist for 60-year career

Monday, January 31, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:02 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

Over 60 years, Ernest C. Withers has taken between 8 million and 11 million photographs.

Withers, 83, is known for his documentation of the Civil Rights movement and social scenes from the 1950s and ’60s in his hometown of Memphis, Tenn.

On Friday, Withers came to MU to talk about his experiences as a photographer and to show his work to more than 65 students and faculty members.

Later, he was awarded a 2004 Missouri Honor Medal for lifetime achievement from the School of Journalism.

Withers gave advice to photojournalism students. He said the most important job of a news photographer is telling the truth.

“I don’t make pictures for slander,” he said.

Withers, who has been married for 63 years, said companionship is the most important part of his life. Although he loved his job, he said his photography was all about supporting his wife and eight children.

“The greatest super moment in my life was after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I was able to go in and see him, but I did not photograph him,” Withers said. “I did this out of integrity.”

David Rees, who leads the photojournalism department at MU, said Withers’ visit was “a wonderful opportunity to meet someone who has lived the history.”

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