Obituary: Bill Hudson, Photographer of Civil Rights Protests, 77

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News photographer Bill Hudson, whose images of police brutality against civil rights protesters stirred national outrage, died June 24 in Jacksonville, Florida, the AP reports. He was 77. According to his wife, Patricia, the cause of death was congestive heart failure.

Born in Detroit, Hudson began working as a photographer for the Army during the Korean War, and then worked for the The Press-Register of Mobile, Ala., and The Chattanooga Times in Tennessee. He joined The Associated Press in Memphis in 1962. 

In May 1963, Hudson was in Birmingham when school children recruited by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference conducted  demonstrations to protest segregation in the city’s arrest of civil rights organizers. The local police, under orders from Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene "Bull" Connor, retaliated with police dogs and firehoses. Hudson's most famous photo shows a Birmingham police officer holding an African-American teenager, William Gadsen, by the arm as a police dog lunges at Gadsen's stomach.  The photo was published across three columns on page 1 of The New York Times and in other papers around the US. 

In her book Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, journalist and former Birmingham resident Diane McWhorter refers to Hudson's photo nine times, according to the AP. She argues that the documentation of Bull Connor's  attacks on "school age witnesses for justice" stirred national outrage which helped lead to "the end of apartheid in America."
Hudson told McWhorter that his priority that day was "making pictures and staying alive.”

Hudson's wife told the AP that he was often attacked by people who did not want him to document the police's treatment of the protesters. "Sometimes people were throwing rocks and bricks at him,” she said. 

Hudson also photographed the civil rights demonstrations in Selma and elsewhere. He left AP in 1974 to join the United Press International wire service. 

He is survived by his wife and his sister, Sharon Garrison. 

(Photo © Bill Hudson/AP)

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