Ernest C. Withers, Sr., an Unsung World War 2 Hero of Memphis
One of Three Unsung WWII Heroes From Memphis
Ernest C. Withers,Sr. is one of three "unsung" World War II (WWII) heroes from Memphis, Tennessee whose lasting contribution to American History has been largely "unsung." Withers is linked to the other two WWII heroes by the calendar date of October 15.
Photographer and WWII Veteran
Ernest C. Withers, Sr. Is Linked to Luke J. Weathers, Jr. And PFC Sylvester Rodgers, Sr. By the Day of October 15
Ernest C. Withers, Sr., Luke J. Weathers, Jr., and PFC Sylvester Rodgers, Sr. are all WWII heroes whose lives are linked:
- All died on the same day; October 15
- All served in WWII
- All made great contributions to United States history
The year of death differs for each man:
- Rodgers died in 1993
- Withers died in 2007
- Weathers died in 2011
Ernest C. Withers, Sr.
Ernest C. Withers, Sr., is linked to two other World War II heroes from Memphis; Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers, Jr., and PFC Sylvester Rodgers, Sr., by the fact that they all died on the same calender day of October 15.
World Famous Photographer
With over one million documented images in his life-time, Ernest C. Withers, Sr., was the world famous photographer who captured on film the unforgettable moment in history when Martin Luther King, Jr., was fatally wounded. Withers served in WWII and lived in Memphis.
A WWII Photographer
As a WWII photographer, Ernest Withers was accustomed to being in situations were poignant still shots could be captured and preserved quickly.
Withers transferred the skills he learned as a photographer in WWII to civilian life by documenting historical images that included:
- Memphis Music
- Civil Rights and
- The Negro Baseball League
A Granddaughter's Tribute
Ernest C. Withers; Just as Luke Weathers, and Sylvester Rodgers, Served in WWII
While growing up and seeing movies like The Yong Warriors and Red Ball Express, the children of Ernest C. Withers, Sr. had questions about the war. Withers made sure that his children met and spoke to Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers, Jr. and PFC Sylvester Rodgers, Sr. to learn first hand about the accomplishments that African Americans made during WWII.
As a result of growing up in the 1930's and 1940's Withers, Weathers, and Rodgers knew what it was like for Black Americans to have to struggle in order to get an education. African American heroes were rarely mentioned and positive, black role models were not portrayed in the media.
By introducing his children to Lt. Col Luke J. Weathers, Jr. and PFC Sylvester Rodgers, Sr., Ernest Withers was making sure that his children had the experience of interacting with positive African American role models as they received a true education in American History.
The Withers, Weathers and Rodgers Families Shared Other Things
- Joshua "Billy" Withers' first grade teacher was Laverne Weathers (The wife of Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers, Jr.)
- Luke J. Weathers and Laverne Weathers both went to the same school as Ernest C. Withers (Manassas High School in Memphis, TN)
- The grandfather of Joshua "Billy" Withers (Ernest Withers' son) and PFC Sylvester Rodgers, Sr. both had roots in Holly Springs, Mississippi
A Son's Tribute
Withers Captured Monumental Events
Passion for Photography and History
Ernest C. Withers, Sr. received his passion for ancestral history from his father.
Through photography, Withers was able to pass on his passion for history and the camera to his children.
A Famous Photographer From Memphis
Ernest C. Withers, Sr. lived in Memphis, TN. As a photographer Withers documented:
- The Civil Rights Movement
- The music scene on Beale Street
- The Negro Baseball League
- Black social life in Memphis
- The Emmett Till trial
- The Montgomery Bus Boycott
- Medgar Evars Funeral
- The Integration of Little Rock High School
- The Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike
- The Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination and funeral
Beale Street Studio
As they came of age, Ernest Withers required his children to work in his photography studio which was located on Beale Street.
Ernest Withers taught his children the value of work by having them mop and clean the photography studio. As time went on the youths were allowed to photograph children's birthday parties. Later, to further develop their skills, the youngsters were given their first real photography assignment; filming casket layouts. Withers would comment, "...they ain't gonna move...".
Beale Street Photography Studio
The Ernest Withers Museum and Gallery Is on Beale Street
The Ernest Withers Collection Museum & Gallery is located on the east end of Beale St. in Memphis, TN.
The Withers Beale St. Studio Is a Museum
The Ending of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Joshua "Billy" Withers and his siblings were witness to the ending of the Montgomery, AL Bus Boycott. Ernest C. Withers, Sr. photographed the event and he wanted his children to witness history as the boycott culminated.
L. Alex Wilson of the Memphis Tri-State Defender traveled with Ernest Withers and his family as they left at 6 am on a cold, rainy morning to capture the historic ending of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Network of the Black Press
In the 1950's the black press was already onto stories that the white press was missing, ignoring, or belittling.
Ernest C. Withers, in conjunction with the black press, sought out and discovered evidence that uncovered the truth about black existence in the United States.
Passion for History and Photography
Memphis, a Crossroad for the Civil Rights Movement
Do you feel that Ernest C. Withers, Sr. played a key roll in the Civil Rights Movement by his photographic documentations?
Over One Million Photos in His Life Time
An Unforgettable Life
Withers' Voice in History
Withers used his lens, his pen, and his voice to change:
- People Magazine
- The Tri-state Defender
- Pittsburgh Courier
- New York Times
- Memphis World and
- Many Motion Pictures Nationwide
His impact on world history will be felt for generations to come, as his voice continues to resound through the millions of high quality images he has fashioned for the world to ascertain.