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Obituaries

* Vernon Merritt III; Veteran Photojournalist

September 04, 2000

Vernon Merritt III, 59, a photojournalist who chronicled the Vietnam War and efforts to integrate the South during the turbulent 1960s. After graduating from the Art Center in Los Angeles, Merritt returned to his native Alabama where he photographed voter registration drives and segregation protests for the Black Star photo agency. His photographs appeared in a number of publications including Newsweek, the Saturday Evening Post and Life. While covering the desegregation of schools in Alabama, he once rode along with black students who were taking a bus to their first day of classes. The bus was stopped by a mob of whites, who dragged Merritt off and beat him because of his involvement with the movement. "That was pretty difficult on him," said Charles Moore, a colleague of Merritt's, "but he was a pretty brave guy." While covering the Vietnam War, Merritt was wounded by sniper fire and left partially paralyzed for some months. After his recovery he went to work for Life magazine and stayed with the publication until 1972. An accomplished horseman, Merritt founded Equus, a publication that was known as the "thinking equestrian's" magazine. It was later sold to American Heritage Publishing Co. On Aug. 17 from a gunshot wound to the chest at his home in Old Lyme, Conn. Police were investigating the incident but had ruled out any criminal aspect.

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