James Green; photographer captured key moments for AP

By Padraig Shea
Globe Correspondent / December 28, 2010

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James Walter Green saw history unfold through his camera lens, from World War II to the 1980 Winter Olympics.

He captured military bases in the Arctic and the safe landing of Apollo 13’s crew. Once, aided by an impolite gust of wind, he snapped a shot of Queen Elizabeth’s royal slip.

For 42 years, Mr. Green was a revered photographer and editor in the Associated Press bureau in Boston. He died Dec. 21 of complications of cancer and diabetes at Linden Ponds nursing homes in Hingham. He was 92.

Mr. Green’s mother gave him his first camera as a teenager, and he landed his first newspaper job after graduating from Quincy High School in 1936.

He worked for the Quincy Evening News and the Patriot-Ledger until 1939, when he joined the Boston Post. In 1941, Mr. Green was hired by the Associated Press, for which he worked until his retirement in 1983.

“His whole life was wrapped around being a news photographer,’’ said Bob Howard, who befriended Mr. Green while working alongside him as a photographer for the Boston Record-American and Boston Herald. “He loved being a photographer.’’

Mr. Green’s talent matched his passion for picture-making. His pictures won numerous awards from the AP and the Boston Press Photographers Association, of which Howard is now chairman.

Charlie Krupa, a photographer who joined AP’s Boston bureau in 1983, the year Mr. Green retired, recalled his skill and ingenuity.

“It was like walking into the shadow of a legend,’’ said Krupa. “He was just so good. He was the kind of guy who knew how to get an impossible picture.’’

Mr. Green’s prowess also earned him the opportunity to travel. During World War II, he joined the US Army and was stationed in the Arctic as an official war photographer. After the war, he was assigned to Rome’s AP bureau and covered Italy and the Middle East until 1949, when Mr. Green moved with his wife, Jennie, and their newborn daughter, Karen, back to Boston.

“He traveled a great deal,’’ said the daughter, Karen Bernstein of Plymouth. “We didn’t see a lot of Dad at times, but we’d see him on TV in the background covering major events. There’d be calls late at night when there was breaking news, and he’d have to get up and go.’’

Mr. Green took pride in documenting history, his colleagues said. He covered seven Apollo spacecraft splashdowns, five Olympic Games, and visits from Queen Elizabeth to Canada and the West Indies.

“They’d send him to California for a week, and then they’d say, ‘Oh, there’s a story in Japan we want you to do,’ ’’ said Bernstein, one of Mr. Green’s three children. “As a kid, I was always amazed that he could carry all that heavy equipment. He would schlep that all over the world and make the most wonderful pictures.’’

Mr. Green made time for his children, even if it meant bringing them on an assignment. His son Richard accompanied him to Red Sox games as a child. During John F. Kennedy’s presidency, Mr. Green covered the Kennedy family’s weekend retreats to Hyannis and often brought along the Green family.

Even after retiring from the AP, Mr. Green continued to develop other photographers’ pictures in the darkroom he built in his Hingham home with his son. The advent of digital photography ended his photo-processing business.

“I think the best times were working in the darkroom with dad,’’ said Richard Green, a commercial photographer living in Hull. “We had a lot of fun in the dark.’’

The last major event Mr. Green photographed was his granddaughter’s wedding in July 2006, when he was 86. Within a week, a complication related to diabetes robbed him of 90 percent of his vision.

“That bothered him more than anything,’’ said Jennie Green, who met her husband while she was a junior editor at the AP in Boston. “To be able to be a photographer and then lose his vision, that was tough for him. It was very difficult at times. I just felt so badly for him.’’

Mr. Green donated most of the cameras and other equipment he could no longer use to Linden Ponds, where he had been living.

Before completely retiring from camera work, however, Mr. Green made a few more pictures of his four great-grandchildren.

“He would take pictures just by training the camera on the kids he was hearing,’’ Bernstein recalled. “Many of them — you wouldn’t believe it — they came out fantastically.’’

In addition to his wife, daughter, and son, he leaves another daughter, Janice Born of Westbrook, Maine; five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. today at the Peck Funeral Home in Braintree. Burial will follow at Mount Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy.

Padraig Shea can be reached at