Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park


Don Whitehead

Don Whitehead was born on April 28, 1908, in the coal camp of Inman.  Don Whitehead's family moved to Harlan, Kentucky early in his life. At age 10, Whitehead wrote his first news story for the local newspaper about a murder that he had witnessed. After attending the University of Kentucky, Whitehead worked for the Lafollette Press. He then became city editor of the Harlan Daily Enterprise, covering the 1930s Harlan County labor wars. In 1934, he went to work as a reporter for the Knoxville Journal and in 1935, he joined the Associated Press as a night editor in Memphis. Whitehead's skill as a feature writer earned him a promotion to the AP's New York Bureau in 1941—the eve of the United State's entrance to World War II. In 1942, he was sent by the AP to Egypt, where he was assigned to the British Eighth Army as it began its campaign against Rommell's Africa Corp. Whitehead landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944 with the First Infantry Division's 16th Regiment. He covered the fighting on the beachhead, the breakout at St. Lo, and the sweep across France. During World War II, Whitehead earned the nickname "Beachhead Don" because he was present at so many allied landings, five in all. For his work, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Truman.  In July, 1950 he was sent to cover the Korean War where he distinguished himself as one of the leading journalists to cover the conflict. For this, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1951, followed by the George Polk Memorial Award for wire service reporting. In 1952, Whitehead won another Pulitzer Prize. It was awarded for his international reporting on a secret fact-finding trip to Korea taken by President-elect Eisenhower.  Don Whitehead went on to write six books including the best selling The FBI Story, a history of the FBI from 1908 to 1955.

On Saturday, September 20, 2008, a special public "Induction Ceremony" was held at 5:30 pm on the grounds of the Southwest Virginia Museum in Big Stone Gap. The event was part of the museum's year-long 60th Anniversary celebration. We wish to thank all those you came out to celebrate these very fine accomplishments. For more information, contact the museum at 276-523-1332.  

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