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Gordon Parks: A Remarkable Man

Photographer Gordon Parks contemplates his lengthy career at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 1999(AP Photo/Miami Herald, Marsha Halper).
AP (file)
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
First off, Gordon Parks was one of the coolest looking guys I've ever seen — that moustache, that shock of white hair. People who didn't know would always ask, "Who was that?"

Well, where do you start? He was most famous, I suppose, as a photographer. He was a brilliant photojournalist. His image of a black woman in front of an American flag with a broom and mop called "American Gothic," taken in 1942, is still searing.

He was a huge star at Life Magazine when a copy of Life sat on most every coffee table in the country.

He wrote novels and poetry.

He made films and the music to score them. He directed "Shaft".

Really, this is all the same guy. Gordon Parks was the 15th child of a share cropper from Kansas. He never finished high school, and worked as a porter on a passenger train. As a black man, he was relegated to the margins of our culture.

But Parks was an American original who whose talent and determination lifted him over unbreachable barriers. What a life!.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.