The coming of civil rights to Alabama was one of the most physically dangerous stories that a reporter could cover. We sometimes forget that the right to vote in the United States in the middle of the 20th century was pursued at the cost of lives. A writer who went down to Selma or Montgomery literally took his life into his hands.
The most consistently excellent coverage of those times came from UPI. The AP, which because of its structure as a cooperative, was largely beholden to the local newspapers in the area; its coverage all too often was a step behind. When Rosa Parks wouldn’t move, UPI wrote the story. When churches were bombed in Montgomery, UPI was there. When James Meredith went through the doors at Ole Miss, not only was UPI there, but a future UPI reporter was a National Guardsman standing in the door making sure that Meredith got in safely.
I’m frequently proud to have started my career at UPI. This is one reason why.