Malcolm Browne, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and photographer best known for his 1963 image of a monk setting himself on fire in Vietnam, died Monday at the age of 81.
Browne’s wife, Le Lieu, told the AP that her husband’s death was due to complications of Parkinson’s disease, which the photographer was diagnosed with in 2000.
Born and raised in New York City, Browne was enrolled in Quaker school from kindergarten through the twelfth grade. After getting his high school diploma, he went on to attend a Quaker college in Pennsylvania where he studied chemistry.
“Working in a lab when drafted in 1956, [Browne] was sent to Korea as a tank driver, but by chance got a job writing for a military newspaper, and from that came a decision to trade science for a career in journalism.”
After spending a short time at the Middletown Times Herald-Record in New York, Browne joined the Associated Press in 1960. A year later, the AP sent him from Baltimore to Saigon where he joined a small group of journalists (including photographer Horst Faas and reporter Peter Arnett and David Halberstam of the NY Times) covering South Vietnam’s US-backed military struggle against the Viet Cong.
In 1963, Browne’s image of a burning Thich Quang Duc became one of the first defining images of the escalating conflict within South Vietnam and later won Malcolm a Pulitzer Prize.
The image (seen below) reportedly made it directly to the desk of US President John F Kennedy, prompting him to re-evaluate the United States’ Vietnam policy, the Associated Press reported.
After leaving the AP, Browne also covered war zones for the New York Times for 30 years, BBC News reported.
“Malcolm Browne was a precise and determined journalist who helped set the standard for rigorous reporting in the early days of the Vietnam War,” said Kathleen Carroll, AP executive editor and senior vice president. “He was also a genuinely decent and classy man.”
In addition to his wife, Browne is survived by his son, Timothy; a daughter, Wendy, from a previous marriage; a brother, Timothy; and a sister, Miriam.