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Born in Maryland, Booker moved with his family to Youngstown, Ohio, when he was five years old. There, his father opened a YMCA for African-Americans. While a high school student in Youngstown, some of Booker's stories were published in the Baltimore Afro American, a prominent Black newspaper.
Booker graduated from high school in Youngstown and then enrolled at Youngstown College, but transferred to Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, when he learned that Black students were denied activity cards at the YMCA. He earned money during college by providing publicity for Virginia Union's sports teams. Booker returned to Youngstown during summer vacations and published articles about the Negro Baseball League games there. Upon graduating with a degree in English, he took his first job with the Afro American. Booker later returned to Ohio and worked for the Cleveland Call and Post. Booker was offered a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in 1950–51.
In 1952 Booker became the first black reporter for The Washington Post. Booker is best known for his Civil Rights era reporting for Jet and Ebony magazines. His coverage of the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi and the subsequent trial is one of the most noted pieces of journalism from the era.
During his long career, Booker was recognized by his peers with numerous awards, including the Newspaper Guild Award and a Wilkie Award. In 1982 he became the first African-American journalist to win the National Press Club's Fourth Estate Award for lifetime contributions to journalism. Booker retired in 2007 at the age of 88, after serving as Jet's Washington Bureau Chief for 48 years.