Notable Deaths ›

Kathryn Johnson (2019), journalist covered key moments in the Civil Rights Movement

AP Photo

She was the only journalist allowed inside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s home on the day of his assassination

Kathryn Johnson was an Associated Press journalist who was there for some of the most pivotal events of the Civil Rights Movement. As a reporter for the Associated Press, she was the only member of the press who was allowed access to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s home on the day of his assassination, having covered the civil rights giant and his family from the days before his fame. Several years earlier, Johnson had posed as a student to get access to Charlayne Hunter as she became the first black student to enroll at the University of Georgia, and she hid under a table to get a scoop on Alabama Governor George Wallace’s conversation regarding blocking integration at the University of Alabama. After more than three decades with the AP, Johnson also worked for U.S. News & World Report and CNN.

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Died: October 23, 2019 (Who else died on October 23?)

Details of death: Died in Atlanta at the age of 93.


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Building a career: Johnson was a secretary for the Associated Press for 12 years before she got a chance to be a journalist. Then, as the 1960s began, she was perfectly placed to cover the unfolding of the Civil Rights Movement. She was in the minority as a woman in journalism, and as the men she worked with had no interest in covering the stories of black lives, she took the civil rights assignments and built her career on them.  

What people said about her: “Kathryn Johnson was essential reading on one of the most important stories of the 20th century, and she did it by being at the center of the action, close to the most important newsmakers.” —Sally Buzbee, AP executive editor

“Kathryn Johnson ’47 was an incredible woman that exemplified what it meant to engage in the intellectual and social challenges of her time. Her legacy is truly awe inspiring. May she rest in peace.” —Leocadia I. Zak, president of Agnes Scott College, Johnson’s alma mater

Full obituary: Washington Post

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