Legendary Bellingham Herald photographer Jack Carver dies at 95


Jack Carver, the amiable photographer for The Bellingham Herald who chronicled growth, changes and daily life in Whatcom County for 36 years, died Saturday, July 13. He was 95.

During his career Carver won press photography awards and community service honors. For many people, he will long be remembered as the ever-present likable face of the Herald.

"Few people have exhibited the community spirit as much as Jack did," said Carole Teshima, a former Herald librarian and friend of Carver's. "He was really a special person."

When Carver retired in 1981, nearly 250 people turned out for an appreciation event at Bellingham Senior Center. By then, Carver had turned to writing and editing the Herald's "Going Strong" page on senior activities.

Two weeks later, another large crowd filled the ballroom at the Leopold Hotel to honor Carver with a dinner, speakers and a standing ovation.

During his years at the Herald, Carver captured more than 57,000 images of community life, images that are now an important part of Whatcom Museum's photo collection.

His work has been the subject of at least two exhibits at the museum, including one in late 2011. That exhibit, "Delivered Daily: The News Photography of Jack Carver," ran for four months and featured a 94th birthday party for Carver at the museum's Lightcatcher building.

"He was an institution and a treasure to our community," said Patricia Leach, the museum's executive director.

Carver died at home after being sick the past few months.

"He said he wouldn't change a thing about his life if he had to live it over again," said Mary Wilson, one of his daughters. "He was very happy."

Carver's career as a Herald photographer stretched from October 1945, soon after his service in World War II with the Army Air Corps, until his retirement in August 1981. His tenure at the Herald paralleled the county's post-war growth years.

He was there, camera in hand, when the Mobil oil refinery was built, the Interstate 5 freeway was punched through the county, and Western Washington University expanded. He was there to photograph bitter snowstorms, stupendous fires and other tragedies and mishaps. He photographed presidents, governors and other visiting dignitaries.

He also was there for memorable moments in people's lives: The first family to watch television in Bellingham, the first day of school, homecomings, graduations, New Year babies.

"Even now, people say they remember Jack when they were kids," Teshima said.

Bellingham historian Brian Griffin videotaped an interview with Carver as part of a history series available at Bellingham Public Library.

"He knew so much about so many things, he was a logical person to do an oral history of," Griffin said. "Jack Carver was everywhere. In addition, he was a heck of a nice guy."


John Coston "Jack" Carver's roots ran deep in the community.

His father, William Coston "Cos" Carver, was a teenager when his parents moved to Bellingham from Indiana in 1903. The gymnasium at Western Washington University is named after Jack Carver's uncle, Sam.

Carver's father went on to become a top editor at the Herald for 45 years. His mother worked as society page editor for a while, and Carver began working as a Herald newspaper carrier as a boy.

"I just grew up by going down to The Herald with my dad every so often," Carver said in an interview. "That's how I grew up, with newspaper ink in me."

Carver first became interested in photography while in the military, taking pictures with a Kodak Brownie and sending prints home from England. He didn't envision a career in photojournalism when he returned to Bellingham, but a Herald reporter who also took photographs wanted to focus on writing and editing and let someone else handle the camera work.

Carver became the only full-time photographer at the paper for at least a decade, taking news photos, sports photos and society page photos. He worked days and nights, often responding to telephone tips from police about crimes and accidents.

As the years rolled by Carver became, for many people, The Bellingham Herald incarnate. When people walked down the street with him, it was like being in a parade, Teshima said.

"So many people would come up to talk to him," she said.

Longevity played a part in Carver's legacy. So did his interest in capturing people's lives on film, and the way he approached his subjects, and people in general.

"He never spoke a bad word about anybody," said Wilson, his daughter. "He didn't worry about negative things. He didn't have room for that in his life."

When he retired, Carver focused on spending time with his family; traveling with his wife, Camille, who died in 2007; and playing golf. He also stayed busy tracking down dates and other details for thousands of his negatives in the museum's collection.

"He captured the community with his photographs," said Robert Gibb, the retired deputy medical examiner and one of the speakers at the 1981 gathering at the Leopold to honor Carver. "He was a major talent and a great addition to the community, because he preserved so much."


• A service for Jack Carver will be held at 12:30 p.m. Friday, July 19, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 2117 Walnut St., Bellingham.

• "Archival Revival," a 120-page booklet of Jack Carver's news photography, is available at Whatcom Museum's gift shop for $9.95. Postcards of Carver's images also are available, and prints of his photographs can be ordered from the museum. Details: 360-778-8930.

• Brian Griffin's video interview of Jack Carver is available at Bellingham Public Library.

Reach Dean Kahn at 360-715-2291 or dean.kahn@bellinghamherald.com.

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