Don Ultang, 91, died in his sleep on Sept. 18, 2008. He, along with John Robinson, won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of photos (above) that show a brutal attack on Johnny Bright, an African-American football player, during the Drake University-Oklahoma A&M football game on Oct. 20, 1951, in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The photo was shot for the Des Moines Register. The attack became known as the "Johnny Bright Incident." The photos describe a hit by a white defensive tackle from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) on Bright, who was Drake's halfback/quarterback. Bright broke his jaw on the play but was able to remain in the game for a few more plays, including a 61-yard touchdown pass to teammate Jim Pilkington. The hit on Bright occurs right after he hands off the ball to Drake fullback Gene Macomber.
The Des Moines Register reported that Drake withdrew from the Missouri Valley Conference after the conference's officials failed to discipline the Oklahoma A&M player. Upon reporting Ultang's death last week, the Des Moines Register wrote:
- The photographs highlighted the racial tension in the years preceding the civil rights era, made the cover of Life magazine and won Ultang and Robinson the Pulitzer Prize, journalism's highest award.
The photographers "didn't really know what they had until they got back to the photo lab," said Paul Morrison, a Drake sports historian who witnessed the Bright incident.
As for Ultang, his daughter Joanne Ultang said, "He would say he was just in the right place at the right time."