Lewis R. "Lew" Bush, a photography director whose career at The Baltimore Sun spanned nearly two decades, died Friday of complications from dementia at his home in Palm Coast, Fla. He was 80.
"Lew was skilled at his trade and knew cameras and film back in the days when we didn't have what we now have today," said John H. Plunkett, a retired Baltimore Sun assistant managing editor. "His job was not easy. He was up early and stayed late into the night."
Lewis Richard Bush was born in Miami and raised there and in Asheville, N.C. His family eventually returned to Jacksonville, Fla., where he graduated from Robert E. Lee High School.
He attended junior college and later transferred to the University of Florida, where he earned a bachelor's degree in accounting. He later earned a master's degree in photojournalism from Syracuse University.
He began his newspaper career in 1950 at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After serving in the Army as a supply sergeant from 1951 to 1953, he returned to the newspaper, where he worked in the circulation department in sales, service and collections.
"Both Lew and his father were amateur photographers, and he loved telling the story that a Times-Union photographer got drunk one night, and that's how he got his job," said his wife of 30 years, the former Jean Bolander, a retired regional insurance agent.
In 1967, Mr. Bush joined the Providence Journal & Evening Bulletin in Rhode Island as an assistant picture editor and later was in charge of suburban photography.
Michael J. Himowitz worked as a reporter with Mr. Bush in Providence and later in Baltimore.
"He was in charge of suburban photography, most of which had been done by reporters using cameras acquired during World War II, or in the case of those old Speed Graphics, World War I," Mr. Himowitz wrote Monday in an email to an Evening Sun message group that is composed of the paper's alumni and retirees.
"He decided to do that and bought every suburban reporter an inexpensive but high-quality 35-mm Konica with automatic exposure and a fix lens, which eliminated most of the hassle for people who weren't born with a light meter in their hands," wrote Mr. Himowitz.
He said that Mr. Bush not only gave them new cameras but showed them how to use them and "make pictures that would look good in the paper."
"He encouraged everyone, and hooked more than a few reporters on photography — a few of whom actually went over to the dark side and went on to careers" as photographers, Mr. Himowitz wrote.
He succeeded photography director William L. LaForce at The Baltimore Sun in 1973. At the time, he presided over a staff of nine photographers who provided pictures for The Sun, The Evening Sun and The Sunday Sun.
"Lew was an even-tempered, pleasant fellow. He brought smiles, good ideas in photography and a calming presence to a department after some excitable moments in the previous photo administration," said Ernest F. Imhoff, a retired Evening Sun and Baltimore Sun editor.
"I think the photographers liked working with him, and they worked hard," said Mr. Imhoff, who added that Mr. Bush had "very high standards."
"Lew came to us after a pretty trying time, and we didn't know what was going to happen," said Walter M. McCardell Jr., a veteran Sun photographer who retired in 1990.
"He was a guy who made friends easily, and I think everyone enjoyed working with him," said Mr. McCardell. "The department really changed under his administration."
Edward J. "Jed" Kirschbaum Jr., a longtime Sun photographer, was hired by Mr. Bush in 1978.
Mr. Kirschbaum said that Mr. Bush "bridged the era" from large-format cameras to the 35-mm cameras with interchangeable lenses, as he had done in Providence.
Mr. Bush presided over the introduction of color into the newspapers in 1981, when The Baltimore Sun became one of the nation's first dailies to do so.
"We live in a visually oriented society — everyone who has grown up since 1950 has done it in front of a TV set," he told The Sunday Sun Magazine in an interview at the time. "People think more and more in visual terms and less and less in terms of words."
"He fought for the department and gave us a lot of leeway in doing things," Mr. Kirschbaum said. "Lew got the department more involved with the newsroom, editors and reporters. He wanted good things for the department and to make a better environment for us. It took many years of pounding to make it happen."
In 1982, Mr. Bush was succeeded by K. Kenneth Paik. When he retired in 1992, Mr. Bush was assistant photo director.
During his career, Mr. Bush earned recognition for his photographs, including awards from the National Press Photographers Association and the Florida Associated Press Media Editors. His work was represented in the permanent collection of Photography in Fine Arts Exhibition IV at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
He was particularly proud of his presidential portraits of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and of presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy, his wife said.
Mr. Bush, who had homes in Palm Coast and Taneytown, was a self-taught woodworker and carpenter, and in a 1985 article published in The Sun, he chronicled how he and a friend built a 16-by-24-foot addition to the home he then owned in Reisterstown.
In a sidebar to the article titled "Bush's Building Rules," he laid out suggestions for those contemplating such an undertaking, including perhaps the most important: "If it wiggles, correct it before going on. Mistakes build on each other." He advised using only professional tools and quality building materials.
Mr. Bush enjoyed camping and riding his Honda Gold Wing touring motorcycle, and had taken road trips as far as Nova Scotia, said Mrs. Bush, who also traveled with her husband on her motorcycle.
He was a member of St. Mark by the Sea Lutheran Church in Palm Coast, where funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Plans for a memorial service to be held in Baltimore are incomplete.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Bush is survived by a son, Brendan Bush of Roanoke, Va.; a daughter, Kristen Bush Gustafson of Charles Village; a stepson, David Dearholt of East Baltimore; a stepdaughter, Susan White of Hampstead; five grandchildren; and two step-grandchildren. An earlier marriage to the former Mary Brooks ended in divorce.