Wednesday, November 5, 2008

White House Photographer Cecil Stoughton Dead at 88

by RICHARD PYLE / Associated Press

Cecil Stoughton, the White House photographer who shot the iconic image of Lyndon Johnson taking the oath of office after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, has died. He was 88.

Stoughton died Monday [11/03] evening at his at his home on Merritt Island, Fla., his son Jamie Stoughton said.

The photo he took of the swearing-in ceremony aboard Air Force One, Johnson with his hand raised and a stunned Jacqueline Kennedy looking on, became the most famous in his five years, 1961-65, as White House photographer.

"Cecil Stoughton's photos helped to create the aura that later came to be called Camelot," said Bobbi Baker Burrows, director of photography at Life magazine and co-author of the National Geographic Society's 2006 publication, "The Kennedy Mystique."

"In the confusion that followed the assassination, his (swearing-in) photograph told the world that there was a new president, and the country that it was safe," Burrows said.

Stoughton was an Army captain in 1961 when picked by Kennedy's military aide, Maj. Gen. Chester Clifton, to photograph daily events at the White House. He was the first official White House photographer, a position that has since become standard for presidents.

During those years he became close to the Kennedy family.

Accompanying Kennedy to Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, Stoughton was in the fifth car in the motorcade and heard the shots that fatally wounded the president. He was at Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy died, when he learned he had to go photograph the swearing-in before Air Force One left for Washington D.C.

"He took about 20 pictures but the first one almost didn't happen because his Hasselblad — the Rolls-Royce of cameras — malfunctioned," his son said.

"He was under tremendous pressure. If his camera had failed, who knows what would have happened? It was the only proof that Johnson had been sworn in."

In all, he said, his father shot about 12,000 negatives during the Kennedy years, which are now archived at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. These include many lighter moments of the first family at the White House.

One of his father's favorites showed Kennedy standing in the Oval Office, clapping as his children played and danced, Jamie Stoughton said. When he showed it to the president, a delighted Kennedy signed it: "For Capt. Stoughton, who captured beautifully a happy moment at the White House."

Cecil Stoughton later worked as a National Park Service photographer, his son said. In 1973 he published a book, "The Memories — JFK, 1961-1963," with Clifton and Time magazine writer Hugh Sidey.

In June 2007, Stoughton discussed his White House work and the famous photo on the public television series "Antiques Roadshow," when the program was in Orlando, Fla. By coincidence, that taped segment was rebroadcast on Monday night — on a program on presidential antiques — about an hour after Stoughton died.

"The odd thing was that he didn't really want to go (to the TV show) but he kind of knew he would be chosen to show the picture," his son said. "And he was."

Source: Associated Press

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