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Charles Moore, who captured civil rights movement with his lens, dies

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The world saw glimpses of the civil rights movement through Charles Moore's eyes: In black-and-white photographs, he captured arresting images of the integration riots at Ole Miss in 1962, the fire hoses in Birmingham in 1963, a Ku Klux Klan rally in North Carolina in 1965.

The Alabama native recognized the significance of the civil rights movement early on as one of the first photographers to document the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership. Moore is remembered for his striking images of historic and often violent events that required him to get closer to the action than many other photographers would.

Moore died Thursday at age 79, said John Edgley of Edgley Cremation Services in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Working for the Montgomery Advertiser at the time, Moore began covering the civil rights movement and was the lone photographer at the scene when King was arrested in Montgomery in 1958. One of his images showed two white police officers hustling away King, whose right arm was wrenched behind his back.

John Kaplan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who teaches journalism at the University of Florida, said Moore knew he was witnessing history, and it showed in his work. His relationship with King and other leaders in the movement earned him access to important events.

"He had a personal relationship with King. King trusted him," Kaplan said.

Later, while working on a contract basis for Life magazine, Moore traveled around the South to cover some of the most dramatic events of the civil rights movement.

Moore photographed the riots at the University of Mississippi that coincided with the enrollment of James Meredith as its first black student. In one, white students hold a Confederate battle flag aloft as they jeer.

The next year, in 1963, Moore was in Birmingham when black children and teenagers marched through city streets demanding an end to legalized segregation. They were met by police with snarling dogs and firefighters who pounded them with streams of water from fire hoses.

In 1965, he photographed Alabama state troopers in masks tear-gassing voting rights marchers in Selma. The confrontation, which became known as "Bloody Sunday," received worldwide attention, partly because of Moore's photography.

"I'm proud to say my photographs have helped to make a difference in our country and our society, and to show that we're all children of the same God," Moore said in a 2005 interview with the Montgomery Advertiser.

Moore's photos stand out because he used short lenses that required him to get close to the demonstrators, said Hank Klibanoff, who won a Pulitzer with Gene Roberts for their book "The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Awakening of a Nation."

"There are images of Charles in the middle of the scrum while other photographers are on the sidewalks, missing the action," said Klibanoff.

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