He Captured the Shooting of the President

AP White House photographer Ron Edmonds dies at 77
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2024 1:55 PM CDT
He Captured the Shooting of the President
President Ronald Reagan winces and raises his left arm as he was shot by an assailant as he left a Washington hotel, Monday, March 30, 1981.   (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

Ron Edmonds was on the White House beat for the AP for 28 years, but the biggest moment came on his second day. Edmonds, who died Friday at age 77, was the only photographer to capture the shooting of Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981, the New York Times reports. Edmonds took a series of photos as the president was shot by John Hinckley outside a Washington, DC, hotel and pushed into a limo by Secret Service agents. He won a Pulitzer for the photos in 1982. When the prize was announced, he said, "I wish it had been for a picture that had not been of violence, of people being hurt."

  • Edmonds, who had been covering Reagan's speech to AFL-CIO members, was on the other side of Reagan's limo with his camera trained on the president when Hinckley fired. "Everything happened in such a quick, split-second. If you looked to your right to see what the shot, what the noise was, and looked back, the president was already gone," Edmonds later recalled, per the AP. "The president immediately, when the first pop went off, he kind of grimaced in his face and that's when I pushed the shutter down."
  • He said he thought he would be in trouble with management because he failed to get a clear photo of Hinckley. Instead, he got a raise of $50 per week. He said the president of the AP told him, "You nailed it, kid."

  • Edmonds said the day after the Pulitzer win was announced, Reagan summoned him to the Oval Office for a chat and joked that a stuntman could replay the scene if Edmonds needed more photos.
  • Edmonds' wife, Grace Feliciano Edmonds, said he died in a Virginia hospital on Friday from pneumonia linked to a bacterial infection, the Times reports. Edmonds, who grew up in Sacramento, retired in 2009. He met Grace in 1975, when he was chief photographer at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and she joined the newspaper to cover courts.
  • He was also known as a pioneer of digital cameras, Digital Camera World reports. He used Nikon's first filmless camera to take and transmit the world's first images of George HW Bush's inauguration in 1989.

  • "I decided to take a photography class in 1968 and it literally changed my life," Edmonds wrote in 2013 after he was honored with the White House News Photographers Association's Lifetime Achievement Award. He said a professor encouraged him to take photos of antiwar demonstrations and offer them to wire services. He said that after UPI bought one for $25, he knew what he wanted to do for a living.
  • J. David Ake, retired director of photography at the AP, says he will remember Edmonds for his kindness. "He wanted to win and put the AP first more than anyone I knew, but never at the expense of the photographers he was competing with. If your batteries died or you committed the ultimate sin and ran out of film, Ron would hand you his," Ake says. "He would insist he be the first one through the door at a photo op but he always made sure everyone else got through the door, too."
(More obituary stories.)

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