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A Tribute To Gordon Parks On His 100th Birthday

Ulrich Museum
Wichita State University

The audio version of the story below.

Friday marks the centennial of the birth of photographer, composer, filmmaker and author Gordon Parks.

Celebrations have been held across the country in his honor, including several events at Wichita State University. Parks' third wife, Genevieve Young, spoke Thursday at Wichita State, which houses Parks' personal papers.

Young was former senior editor at Little Brown and Company and vice president of Bantam Books. She edited Gordon Parks' writings.

Parks is known for his photographic essays at Life magazine and directing the 1971 movie Shaft. He was the first African-American director to write and produce a major film in Hollywood.

Young says Parks worked mostly by instinct.

"Composing music, writing a book, photography," she says. "I really don't think that there was any 1,2,3...he just did it."

Young was the editor of some of Parks best selling books.

"I'd write him a set of notes and sometimes I'd ask him the wrong question but he answered the right question, if you know what I mean, which is very smart," she says.

"He had this really terrific desire to tell his story and the Learning Tree and a Choice of Weapons is his story."

Gordon Parks: Collected Works, a five volume box set that spans Park's photographic career, will be released December 1.