Pat Hamilton, information photographer in battle zones, dies at 74

Pat Hamilton, a photojournalist who specialised in battle zones, from Central America to Somalia to the Persian Gulf area, and who could have helped alter a presidential election with a whimsical image of Gerald Ford consuming a tamale incorrectly, died Aug. 13 at his dwelling in San Antonio. He was 74.

The trigger was lung most cancers, mentioned his spouse, Sylvia Hamilton.

Mr. Hamilton started his photojournalism profession within the early Nineteen Seventies after three years of fight as a Marine Corps veteran in Vietnam, the place he endured withering enemy hearth at shut vary and as soon as noticed a platoon-mate hauled off within the jungle by a tiger.

All through his photojournalism profession, Mr. Hamilton additionally lined pure disasters comparable to hurricanes, tornadoes and main sporting and political occasions. He was on the workers of the San Antonio Specific-Information in 1976 when, throughout that election 12 months, he captured President Ford campaigning close to the Alamo and biting right into a tamale with the corn husk nonetheless on.

The culinary fake pas, generally referred to as “the Nice Tamale Incident,” was considered a think about Ford’s shedding Texas to the Democratic nominee, Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Hamilton joined the Related Press in Mexico Metropolis in 1979 and moved to Reuters in the identical metropolis in 1985 as chief photographer for Mexico and Central America — a area aflame in civil battle and Chilly Struggle proxy battles.

In Nicaragua, he traveled to fight zones both with the Sandinistas led by Daniel Ortega and generally with the U.S.-backed right-wing guerrillas referred to as the contras.

One in all his closest associates, American photographer Invoice Gentile, wrote in his 2021 ebook “Look forward to Me: True Tales of Struggle, Love and Rock & Roll”: “After I drove round in a battle zone in northern Nicaragua with a man like Hamilton sitting shotgun, I had a way of safety that I didn’t get pleasure from if using round with some on a regular basis John Doe.”

Patrick Ward Hamilton was born in Madison, Wis., on July 17, 1949. His father was an actual property agent, and his mom was a onetime authorized secretary at Time-Life who raised six youngsters.

Rising up in Gladewater, Tex., Mr. Hamilton lettered in basketball and golf in highschool. He attended group faculty in San Antonio, edited the college newspaper and labored half time for a door manufacturing firm earlier than enlisting with the Marines two days earlier than his nineteenth birthday.

He made at the least 30 parachute jumps into fight zones, as soon as touchdown within the sea and swimming a distance to shore in full gear whereas surrounded by sea snakes.

He typically discovered himself as “level man” on the head of long-range reconnaissance patrols to flush out the Viet Cong by way of the jungles of Danang province. At one level, he recalled, he was yards from a Viet Cong patrol when a burning tree department fell on him, and he was pressured to stifle his scream to stop alerting the enemy to his patrol’s location.

One other time, the Viet Cong sprayed the comb with gunfire close to the place his platoon was hunkered down for 2 hours. “My dad mentioned all of them simply needed to sit nonetheless and silent, hoping nobody bought hit and that it was simply mentally tortuous,” mentioned his daughter, Alina Hamilton Mangum. “When the group of Viet Cong grew drained and determined to maneuver on, he referred to as an airstrike in on them.”

As a journalist, Mr. Hamilton labored principally within the pre-digital age. That meant he needed to lug two heavy silver aluminum suitcases of apparatus from project to project — and arrange a darkish room, often within the lavatory of his lodge room, sealed with duct tape to maintain out the sunshine.

Colleagues recall him growing his prints underneath a crimson gentle, with a bottle of Wild Turkey by the tub. “Hell, any fool may do that sober,” was one in every of his frequent remarks.

Later in life, nonetheless, within the phrases of one in every of his favourite singers, Hank Williams Jr., he “rowdied on down” and have become a quiet-living husband and father. Survivors embody his spouse of 44 years, the previous Sylvia Browne; three youngsters; three sisters; and three granddaughters.

After leaving Reuters in 1994, Mr. Hamilton labored as a photograph editor on the Texas newspaper the McAllen Monitor and accomplished a bachelor’s diploma on the College of Texas Pan-American in Edinburg (UTPA), adopted by a grasp’s in English on the similar college. He taught English at UTPA and South Texas School in McAllen.

His journalism lived on. An evocative photo of Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez, taken when Mr. Hamilton was on the AP, accompanied a significant function within the New York Instances in April.

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