Richard L. Tomlinson Sr., a retired photographer who served at the News American and later was a press photographer for two of Maryland's governors, died of complications from heart failure and chronic obstructive respiratory disease Monday at Gilchrist Hospice Care. The Lutherville resident was 79.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Parkville, he attended Baltimore County public schools and joined the old Baltimore News-Post in 1951 while in his teens. He soon became a photographer and established a reputation for excellence in sports and fashion shoots. He covered many Orioles and Baltimore Colts games before the News American closed in 1986. He also had been president of the Baltimore News Union there.
"Dick used a Speed Graphic in the old days and always turned in clear, nice photos," said William G. Hotz Sr., a friend and retired Baltimore Sun photographer who lives in Berlin on the Eastern Shore. "He had excellent timing. I recall a time when I first went out with him. We were covering a lacrosse game. He came back with dynamite photos."
Larry Lewis, a Sykesville resident and retired Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, said Mr. Tomlinson "was tall and broad-shouldered. He was a good thinker and possessed common sense. He was strong and steadfast."
Mr. Lewis, who worked at the News American until 1982, said Mr. Tomlinson was generally not given morning spot news assignments.
"He took the non-news assignments for the Sunday department," Mr. Lewis recalled. "He was exceptionally good with fashion and with art. R.P. Harriss, the ... arts critic, would insist that Dick shoot a new painting at the Baltimore Museum of Art."
Mr. Lewis said Mr. Tomlinson was a good labor negotiator. "He was calm and he was a clear thinker. We once negotiated a year on a contract. He kept everyone calm."
For many years, Mr. Tomlinson accompanied fashion editors to New York for the annual Fashion Week showings.
"Dick was a lovely portrayer of great stories," said James Toedtman, former editor of the News American, who now lives in Savannah, Ga. "On the outside, he could seem crusty and hard, but that was not what Dick was really about. He was dependable, efficient, and did not take rolls and rolls of film to get the picture he wanted. The shots he took always told the story. He did not have the time to dawdle."
After the Hearst Corp. closed the afternoon News American in 1986, Mr. Tomlinson joined the staff of Govs. William Donald Schaefer and Parris N. Glendening.
"Dick had the ability to be any place and not intrude," said Mr. Glendening. "You barely noticed he was there."
Mr. Glendening recalled a visit from President Bill Clinton to Annapolis that Mr. Tomlinson photographed.
"Some of the fondest pictures I have of that day are the ones that Dick took. He just walked along with us. He knew what was important."
He said Mr. Tomlinson could size up an assignment and find a way to take a worthy photograph.
"His photos captured the moment," said Mr. Glendening. "His friendliness and understanding matched with his skills. He also had a way of slipping in an extra photo of someone who might be around. It was a gesture that meant a lot."
In retirement, Mr. Tomlinson became a volunteer at the Baltimore County Public Library and assisted with its collection of historic photos.
Services will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at Peaceful Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Center, 2325 York Road in Timonium.
Survivors include his wife of 43 years, Jeannie "Sarge" Joy; two sons, R. Lee Tomlinson Jr. of Omaha, Neb., and Gary Malamed of Hampstead; a daughter, Denise Geiger of Pennsylvania; a brother, William J. Tomlinson Sr. of Parkville; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.