January 27, 2006

Journalist Earl Caldwell to speak at SIUC Feb. 6

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Journalist Earl Caldwell, who has spent a career witnessing and writing on many of the nation's most significant civil rights events in the last 40 years will appear at Southern Illinois University Carbondale next month.

Caldwell will present a free, public lecture at 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 6, in the SIUC Student Center, Ballroom D. Caldwell's appearance is part of Black History Month on campus, and is sponsored by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

"Earl Caldwell chronicled some of the most important developments in the civil rights struggle and made history himself in a Supreme Court case that has special relevance in the wake of journalist Judy Miller's incarceration for refusing to disclose her sources," institute director Mike Lawrence said.

Caldwell looks forward to his visit to SIUC.

"I'm very excited about it. One of the people I gravitated to was Paul Simon," Caldwell said. "He was just one of those people that the things he would say and positions he took you gravitated to. I consider it absolutely thrilling to be able to go out to the University."

Caldwell expects the lecture to focus on many areas – his legal battles while a reporter that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, journalism, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Caldwell began his journalistic career as a sports writer. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April 1968, he was the only reporter present.

While a reporter at the New York Times, Caldwell refused to provide the FBI and Nixon Administration information regarding sources in the Black Panther Party. Caldwell won the issue in the appeals court, but lost by a 5-4 vote in the U.S. Supreme Court. That 1972 decision resulted in states enacting shield laws allowing reporters to protect sources and information.

Also while at the New York Times, Caldwell covered the riots across black America in the summers of 1967 and 1968. Among Caldwell's many other accomplishments is reporting on the riots in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and being the first black journalist to write a regular column in a major daily newspaper, beginning in 1979, at the New York Daily News.

Caldwell, who lives in New York, previously served as the Scripps Howard Endowed Chair at Hampton University. He is the oral historian at the Oakland-based Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, where is he compiling "The Caldwell Journals." The serialized effort looks at the black journalist movement that was sparked by the civil rights movement. He also hosts the Caldwell Chronicle, a two-hour weekly radio show on WBAI-FM in New York City that presents his reflections, and provides discussion on social justice issues.

Caldwell began his journalism career at 22 at The Progress in Clearfield, Pa.; he later worked for newspapers including the Intelligencer-Journal in Lancaster, Pa., the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., The New York Times and the New York Daily News.

He wrote the 1994 book, "American Witness: Reports from the Front," which is a compilation of his newspaper columns. In 1995, Caldwell received the President's Award from the National Association of Black Journalists. He is currently working on a trilogy of books about the King assassination, his dealings with the FBI and Black Panthers, and his life and career.

Developing citizen-leaders with global perspectives is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.

For more information, contact the institute at 618/453-4009 or visit http://www.siu.edu/~ppi/home.htm