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Remembering Ron Edmonds Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

5 June 2024

Ron Edmonds, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan and photographed every United States President from Richard Nixon through President Barack Obama, died last week in Falls Church, Va., due to pneumonia from a bacterial infection. He was 77.

His assignments included covering summits of world leaders, Presidential inaugurations, Space Shuttle launches, Super Bowls, Summer and Winter Olympics, political races, and most of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions since 1980. His work appeared in publications around the world including Time, Newsweek, Paris Match, Stern, Sports Illustrated, Life and People.

Born on June 16, 1946, in Richmond, Calif., Edmonds grew up in Sacramento. His father was a truck driver who moved so often that Edmonds rarely spent more than a year in any one school.

After graduating from high school, he worked for Pacific Telephone while he attended Sacramento City College. He took a photography course there taught by a newspaper photographer, who suggested he shoot pictures of the antiwar demonstrations in Sacramento.

'I had him in the viewfinder.... I saw his reaction as he flinched.'

United Press International paid him $25 for one of his photos and Edmonds, seeing it in the paper the next day, "knew what I wanted to do for a living."

He began his career freelancing before moving to Hawaii to work for The Honolulu Star-Bulletin where he met his future wife, a reporter who was covering state and federal courts there for the paper.

He joined United Press International as newspicture bureau manager in Sacramento in 1978 where he worked for two years. He covered the Winter Olympics, NBA playoffs, NCAA basketball finals, and Presidential campaigns including Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign and inauguration in 1980.

The Associated Press recruited him to work in its Washington bureau where he worked until he retired in 2009, when he retired as the AP's Senior White House Photographer.

Edmonds was the first photographer at the Associated Press to shoot digital images during the age of film cameras. At George Bush's inauguration in 1989, he transmitted a digital image over a phone line to newspapers around the world 40 seconds after President Bush took the oath of office.

He described the sequence of images he captured of Reagan after he was shot by John W. Hinckley Jr. in 1981."I had him in the viewfinder. He waved once to the right and turned to the left as I pushed the shutter down. That's when the shots rang out. I saw his reaction as he flinched."

Other photographers were there but only Edmonds got the story. Not just of Reagan's reaction but of the others who were shot, including White House press secretary James S. Brady, Officer Thomas K. Delahanty of the Metropolitan Police Department and Secret Service agent Timothy J. McCarthy.

But when he got back to his desk he was worried he hadn't gotten a shot of Hinkley's face. "I knew that I had pictures of them wrestling with him, but they had initially pulled his jacket over his head, which is one of the ways you incapacitate someone," he recalled.

He got a $50-a-week raise anyway. And the Pulitzer Prize.

The White House News Photographers Association awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.

In addition to his wife, Grace Feliciano Edmonds, with whom he lived in Annandale, Va., he is survived by his daughter, Ashley Edmonds; his sister, LaVonne Edmonds Coen; and his brother, Donald.

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