By Clarke Morrison
ASHEVILLE, NC - June Glenn Jr., who chronicled the people, places and events of Western North Carolina for more than four decades as a photographer for the Asheville Citizen-Times, died Saturday. He was 84. The Black Mountain native joined the newspaper staff in 1942, fought in World War II and received a Purple Heart after being wounded on a German battlefield, then resumed his career in photography.
Glenn was a charter member of NPPA, joining on June 1, 1946 when the organization was formed.
And while Glenn’s work was featured in national publications over the years, he chose to remain at the Citizen-Times to be close to family and friends, said one of his daughters, Marsha Stafford. He retired as chief photographer in 1986 as his eyesight was failing.
“He was always so proud of his years working at the Citizen-Times,” Stafford said. “He had many offers to go to major magazines and big newspapers. He would not go. He wanted to be near his family.”
Glenn died peacefully following a bout with leukemia just about two weeks after receiving the diagnosis.
During his career, Glenn became close friends with the likes of the Rev. Billy Graham and world-renowned poet Carl Sandburg (both area residents).
“June Glenn was one of the greatest photographers I ever had the privilege of knowing,” Graham said. “He was a warm, personal friend who took hundreds of photographs of me and my family. Ruth and I feel a great sense of loss.”
A portrait taken by Glenn of Sandburg at the poet’s home Connemara in Flat Rock was Sandburg’s favorite, said Lynn Savage, museum curator at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, which houses a collection of Glenn’s work.
“I think he had an amazing ability to capture someone’s personality on film,” said Savage, a friend of Glenn’s. “Carl Sandburg recognized his abilities early on. We have this incredible chronological record of Mr. Sandburg through Mr. Glenn’s photographs from 1946 to 1965.
He was an incredibly kind man. He had a very gentle spirit. That probably helped him as a photographer because people felt very comfortable with him.”
Citizen-Times photographer Ewart Ball III virtually grew up at the newspaper where his father, Ewart Ball Jr. worked as a photographer. When the elder Ball died of a heart attack in 1966, Glenn hired his son.
“June was like a stepfather,” Ball said. “He helped raise me. It was like one big family back in those days. “He taught me how to be a news photographer. He was a stickler for crisp, clean, contrasty black and white photographs. He was just great to work with.”
Former Citizen-Times writer Nancy Marlowe recalled riding to assignments with Glenn in his old green Volkswagen.
“June was courageous,” she said. “When a landslide on the construction site of Interstate 40 through the Pigeon River Gorge threatened to overtake him as he stood with his camera to his eye, he held his ground and took award-winning photos of the boulders falling toward him. Seeing the breathtaking series of photos that resulted, I said to him in amazement, ‘June, what were you thinking?’’’
Glenn replied, “I was thinking someone else was going to have to process my film.”
"June gave me my first daily newspaper job and was my mentor for many years," Citizen-Times photography editor Bill Sanders said. "And when I was ready he encouraged me to move on to bigger papers. After spending many years at other news organizations I came full circle returning to Asheville. June was extremely happy I had returned to run the photo operatoin here. June got me involved in NPPA, pushed me to run for Regional office and later for national office. No one was prouder than he was when I served as NPPA president in 1985. June was a major player in my career and a good friend."
Funeral services for Glenn will be at 3 p.m. Thursday, April 27, at Black Mountain United Methodist Church, Ashville, with a short visitation at 2:30 p.m. The family will receive friends from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in the chapel of Miller Funeral Home, Asheville.