LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lennox “Red” McLendon, a globe-trotting photographer who chronicled everything from the Vietnam War to the Academy Awards during a long career with the U.S. Navy and The Associated Press, has died at 74.
McLendon died Oct. 24 in Las Vegas, according to his family. No cause of death was given, but he had suffered from Parkinson’s disease and other ailments in recent years.
He began his long career as a photojournalist upon enlisting with the U.S. Navy in 1962. After teaching photography for a time, he was dispatched to Southeast Asia to cover the Vietnam War as a military combat photographer.
That assignment earned him the Navy Achievement Medal With Combat V for what the military described as “professionalism and devotion to duty under arduous living and working conditions and frequent enemy rocket and mortar attacks.”
After leaving the Navy in 1970, McLendon went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Syracuse University before joining Georgia’s Marietta Daily Journal newspaper in 1974 as its chief photographer.
During his time in Georgia, he also began freelancing for The Associated Press. When the AP’s Atlanta photo editor, Spencer Jones, moved to a similar position in Los Angeles, he brought McLendon with him as a staff photographer.
“He was outstanding in every assignment, from sports to politics to space shuttle landings at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert,” Jones said Monday. “Red was instrumental in coverage of all the awards shows, music, television and Academy Awards.”
He also covered natural disasters, including earthquakes and wildfires, the Olympics and other major sports events, and photographed presidents and popes.
A large, flamboyant personality with flaming red hair, McLendon himself stood out at most events he covered.
“One of the things I fondly remember is what others jokingly said about him — he had the sharpest elbows in the industry,” recalled former AP photographer Doug Pizac. “During crowded photo shoots, few dared to stand next to him and try to get in front for fear of getting a jab in the ribcage. He protected his space for the best shot to put on the wire.”
He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Dianne McLendon.
A funeral service is scheduled for Thursday at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City, Nevada.