Graeme Phelps Schulke – Class of 1949

Portrait of Flip Schulke 1995

Graeme Phelps “Flip” Schulke escaped to New Ulm when he was only 16 years old. He had a rough home life, so he chose a more peaceful life with his great- uncle. He attended New Ulm High School and earned his nickname “Flip” on the NUHS gymnastics team. He bought his first Kodak “Baby Brownie Special” during those years and set out to capture moments that would shape history.

Flip graduated from high school in 1949 and went on to receive a degree in journalism from Macalester College. He served in the federalized MN National Guard during the Korean War . During the early 1960s, he gained assignments to cover President John F Kennedy, capturing notable shots. He was one of the first people admitted into the room where Lee Harvey Oswald was positioned during the assassination.

Flip is most famous for his work for the Civil Rights Movement. He met Dr. Martin Luther King in 1958 at a rally. After talking for a bit, Dr. King invited Flip to a home where they stayed up late discussing civil rights. That conversation was the beginning of a friendship and an open door into the movement. Flip took on dangerous work at marches and demonstrations. He saw a colleague right before he was killed by a sniper, was threatened by white mobs, and tear-gassed by the police. This didn’t scare Flip away. He covered one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in history, the march on Washington on August 28, 1963 and found a spot near the podium where Dr. King was delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech to capture images of his friend.

After Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, invited Flip to Atlanta where he covered the the funeral LIFE magazine. He did so, but after the death of his friend, he found it difficult to cover the movement, so he pursued other subjects of interest.

Flip work covered assignments with Muhammad Ali, pre-Castro Cuba and Fidel Castro, and Jacques Cousteau. He took some of his most extraordinary photos underwater. Flip designed lenses to control distortion that occurred when photographing subjects underwater.

Flip photographed for Life, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Ebony, The Saturday Evening Post, People, Time, and Newsweek, published numerous books, and won copious awards. He left behind a gift of great importance that does not lie in those awards or acknowledgements. It lies in the desire his work creates in us to want to be better people. People who are more loving, caring, and compassionate. People who see the world with eyes wide-open and full of curiosity. People who question what is happening and try to fix the problem. People like Flip.