Honor hits home for native Kansan

Noted photojournalist Gordon Parks receives annual William Allen White citation

The humility and graciousness of photojournalist Gordon Parks was evident Friday when a videotape showed the Kansas native accepting this year’s William Allen White Foundation National Citation.

Parks said he had received many awards, but this one topped the list.

“It’s from Kansas,” he said.

Parks was unable to attend the William Allen White Day program Friday at Kansas University, so the award was presented to the 93-year-old a few weeks ago at his New York City home by Ann Brill, dean of KU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

The videotaped presentation was played Friday for several hundred people gathered in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union. Parks, who grew up in Fort Scott, no longer travels. He told the audience via videotape he wished he could be with them, “but my doctor said no.”

In another video, Parks was interviewed by award-winning CBS correspondent Byron Pitts and spoke about growing up in Fort Scott and dealing with racial prejudice throughout his life. Parks went on to write books and make films such as “The Learning Tree” and “Shaft.”

In the interview Parks credited his mother with pushing him to be a success in life.

“If a white boy can do it, you can do it,” Parks recalled his mother telling him. “And you better do it better or don’t come home.”

At the end of the interview Parks said he wanted to be buried in Fort Scott.

“That is my home and that is what I want to go back to,” he said.

Rich Clarkson, a 1955 KU journalism graduate and White Foundation trustee, described Parks as a civil rights leader who used a camera as his main tool.

“He made us think, he made us feel, and he made some of us act,” said Clarkson, owner of Rich Clarkson & Associates Photography in Denver.

An exhibition of Parks’ photography is on display through March 19 at KU’s Spencer Museum of Art.

The White citation has been given annually since 1950 to noted journalists, including Walter Cronkite and Bob Woodward.

The Spencer Museum of Art at Kansas University is featuring an exhibition of photos by Gordon Parks, who grew up in Fort Scott. Parks was honored Friday as the recipient of this year's William Allen White Foundation National Citation. Sue Suhler, program coordinator for the Kansas Space Grant Consortium at KU, viewed some of Parks' works, including Muslim