Brittany Breeding ’16 walks into her job each day alongside the legacy of Will Counts.
Breeding received a scholarship from the Will Counts Journalism Scholarship Fund in 2016. The funds assisted her in finishing her education and moving to Little Rock to begin her new job as a producer at KTHV Channel 11, the CBS affiliate in Little Rock.
"It’s carrying on his legacy because he helped me do this in a way," she said.
She hopes to become a reporter and later work in a top five television market or network news, seeing herself following Counts’ example of journalistic achievement.
Will Counts ’52 is most noted for his iconic images taken during the Central High School Crisis of 1957. One of the most famous is a photograph of Chicago journalist, Alex Wilson, being kicked. Arguably the most famous is of Little Rock Nine student Elizabeth Eckford being harassed by white students while trying to enter the high school.
After the images were published, President Dwight Eisenhower sent Army troops to Little Rock, reportedly having made that decision after seeing the images taken by Counts.
While the world knew Counts as the world-renowned, Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer who braved angry mobs to capture images of the Central High School Crisis, Milton Davis ’55 knew him as the lifelong friend who was more like a brother.
"Nobody had a brother closer," Davis said. "My kids were teenagers before they realized that Will wasn’t their uncle."
Counts and Davis grew up together in the same Little Rock neighborhood. They played in the middle school and Central High School bands. In high school, they were also recruited to be photographers for the school yearbook.
"I had an uncle who had a photography business," Davis said. "I spent so much time in the darkroom with the family business, I didn’t want anything else to do with it.
"For some reason, Will took an interest in photography."
One of Counts’ earliest published works was in the 1949 yearbook. It was a photo of Davis and another student in a boxing match.
Counts died in 2001 after earning both his master’s and doctorate degree at Indiana University where he taught for 32 years before retiring in 1995. He was granted the Honorary Doctor of Communication degree and received a Distinguished Alumni Award posthumously from UCA in 2008.
Davis still tells story after story about their escapades at dances, concerts and on dates, as well as the general mischief the two could always find. The two were almost inseparable.
"In fact, he was best man at my wedding, and I was best man at his wedding," said Davis.
In honor of Counts’ memory, Davis and his family established the Will Counts Journalism Scholarship Fund in 2008. This endowed fund grants scholarships to UCA students majoring in journalism.
Since the endowment’s establishment, six students, including Breeding, have been recipients of the scholarships that total $6,775. The endowment is currently more than $25,000.
Davis said he created the endowment for several reasons. "One is to honor Will. The other is to encourage people to make endowments for students," Davis said. "And the other thing is to honor students like Brittany Breeding."
Breeding and Davis did not get to meet at UCA’s annual scholarship reception that allows scholarship donors to meet recipients.
They met later at Conway-favorite Mike’s Place for lunch, joined by Claudia Davis and former UCA President Tom Courtway.
During that meeting, she learned who Will Counts was.
"I’ve seen that picture several times. I just never knew who took it," Breeding said. "Once I actually met the people who sponsored the Will Counts scholarship and had lunch with them, I knew exactly how much that scholarship meant.
"It was about the legacy Will Counts had and how important he was to journalism, and it was just inspiring."
For more information about scholarship and other giving opportunities, visit http://uca.edu/giving/.