Veteran photojournalist Joe Marquette, 79

Joe Marquette. Photograph by Wilfredo Lee
Joe Marquette. Photograph by Wilfredo Lee

TULSA, OK (November 6, 2016) - Joe Marquette, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who shot an iconic picture of John Riggins and the Redskins at the 1984 Super Bowl, died at home in Tulsa, OK, on November 5, 2016 after a series of lengthy illnesses, family members announced. He was 79.

In the course of a five-decade career Marquette worked for several major news organizations, beginning with two decades at United Press International before moving on to Reuters in 1985 to help establish the wire service’s picture service in the United States. At Reuters News Pictures he was their chief photographer in Washington, D.C. 

Marquette subsequently spent a year as a picture editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, commuting there from Washington. He later spent a decade as a photographer for the Associated Press before becoming bureau manager for the European Press Agency, both posts in Washington.

He retired in 2007 and in recent years has been living in Tulsa. Remembered as a larger man with an out-sized personality, Marquette was sometimes referred to as “Condor” by his fellow shooters in what George H.W. Bush dubbed the “foto dog” community.

Born Joseph Chartrand Marquette in Indianapolis, Marquette grew up in Detroit where he became smitten with photography when his parents, Eugene and Loretta Marquette, gave him a Kodak Brownie camera. He began working for UPI when it was a major competitor with AP, and soon was hired for a staff job which took him to postings in Minneapolis and Denver, where he spent 20 years and eventually became their western bureau manager.  

Marquette’s career, spanning the cataclysmic shift from film to digital photography, gave him a front seat at some of the most important events of the 20th and 21st centuries. He initially covered sports but eventually moved to politics. Space launches, the Olympic Games and NFL Super Bowl games were among his specialties. His famous 1984 Redskins photograph was made into a poster that was sold commercially (not by the photographer) and hung in offices and restaurants all over the Washington area. In 1999, along with a team of other AP photographers, he won a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for the team’s coverage of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

His numerous other awards included a first place for presidential coverage from the White House News Photographers Association in 1992 and in 1981, a first place in sports in the World Press Photo contest for his picture of Britain’s Sebastian Coe winning the Gold Medal in the Men’s 1500m race at the Moscow Olympic Games. 

His assignments at the White House during the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton took him all over the country and all over the world, photographing superpower summits and other major events and presidential vacations, from Santa Barbara to Kennebunkport.

Once, on a trip with George H. W. Bush that stopped in Honolulu, Hawaii, Marquette guessed that the president might go for an early morning swim and brought his underwater camera to breakfast. When he saw the Secret Service agents heading for the beach, he abandoned the meal and dashed into the ocean in time to capture a picture of Bush with his head barely above water. The picture ran prominently in Life magazine as a metaphor for the political hot water then engulfing his presidency. Once, through a friend, Marquette delivered an attractive close-up photograph of Raisa Gorbachev, wife of the Soviet leader, to the Kremlin, and months later was surprised to be summoned to the Soviet Embassy in Washington to receive a traditional lacquered Russian box in return. A close-up of Barbara Bush with her eyes crossed elicited a different reaction: a scolding.

His first marriage to Eva Marquette (now deceased) ended in divorce, as did his second marriage to Carol Giacomo. He is survived by Christopher M. Marquette of Cos Cob, CT, his son with Ms. Giacomo, a reporter with the Hearst newspapers in Connecticut; Anthony Marquette, his son with Ms. Marquette; a daughter-in-law, Debbie Erickson-Marquette, and a grandson, also named Anthony Marquette, all of Colorado; a brother, Eugene Marquette, a lawyer in Tennessee; and his partner, Kim Hewitt, of Tulsa.

BELOW: Joe Marquette at the White House with friend and photographer Hyungwon Kang. Photograph courtesy of Kang.