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Richard Stolley, Founding Editor of People Magazine, Dies at 92 | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Richard Stolley, Founding Editor of People Magazine, Dies at 92

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Richard Brockway Stolley and his twin brother, James, were born on Oct. 3, 1928, in Pekin, in central Illinois. His father, George Brockway Stolley, was a plant manager. His mother, Stella (Sherman) Stolley, was an English teacher.

Dick knew from an early age that he wanted to be a journalist. At 15, he landed a job at his hometown paper, The Pekin Sun Times. After high school, he did a hitch in the Navy, then earned both his bachelor’s degree, in 1952, and his master’s degree, in 1953, at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern.

After a brief stint as a reporter for The Chicago Sun Times, he moved to Life. Mr. Stolley believed deeply in its mission as a pictorial chronicle and in the power of photojournalism, especially when he was based in the South and covering the violence that often surrounded the desegregation of schools.

Speaking to The Digital Journalist in 2009, he recalled a picture in Life of several white boys, their faces contorted, screaming and spitting at a lone Black girl who was integrating a high school in North Carolina. “Photographs like that explained to America what was happening in the South in a way that words never could,” he said.

Mr. Stolley was working in Life’s Los Angeles bureau when President Kennedy was shot in November 1963. He flew to Dallas and was told by a Life freelancer there that a businessman had taken a home movie that vividly caught what had unfolded. She said his name sounded like Zapruder. Mr. Stolley found Abraham Zapruder in the phone book and called him. Mr. Zapruder told him to come to his house the next morning at 9; Mr. Stolley arrived at 8.

“Dozens of other journalists were banging on the door while Dick was inside,” Mr. Wingo said. “They were all screaming, ‘You can’t discriminate, you have to give it to all of us!’” he said.


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