My team is researching the photograph entitled “LBJ taking the oath of office.” This photograph was taken by Cecil W. Stoughton aboard Air Force One, following the death of President John F. Kennedy. Since I was assigned to write the background and context paper for my team, I began my research by looking up information on Mr. Stoughton, and this is what I have found so far.
Cecil W. Stoughton probably did not expect to become the first ever official White House photographer, but under the presidency of JFK that is certainly what he became. Mr. Stoughton was given the task of capturing JFK’s inauguration on his camera on January 20, 1961. JFK was thrilled with Stoughton’s work so then he assigned Stoughton the position. By holding such a position, Stoughton was able to have a front row seat to history, and even better was able to capture a bit of those moments forever in the art of his photographs. He was privy to see close up the personal interactions of John F. Kennedy with his family.
Mr. Stoughton had an interesting journey to the White House. He went to college in Oskaloosa at William Penn College where he studied voice because of his amazing talent as a baritone. Later, he joined the army where he was appointed to the photography training program. He had great success in the program, and later went on to study photography in Hollywood with movie making crews. While in Hollywood, Stoughton was under the command of Ronald Reagan. Then Mr. Stoughton was stationed at Guadalcanal during WWII as a combat photographer, and following that he worked at the Army’s Public Information Office as a photographer. That is when he was assigned to JFK’s inauguration.
Cecil Stoughton was in the motorcade on November 23, 1963, in Dallas, a few cars behind JFK when the president was shot. Mr. Stoughton was then in a waiting room at Parkland Hospital when he discovered that Lyndon B. Johnson was being taken to Air Force One to fly to Washington. He immediately headed out because he was going to be on that plane as well. It was certainly a good thing that Stoughton was on the plane because otherwise there would be no photograph capturing the emotional ride of Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office.
It is important to know about the photographer of the photograph because when one looks at their photograph it is through their eyes that one sees the particular event or people in history. The photographer is another crucial person to take into the mix. One reflects on the people in the picture and tries to decipher how they are feeling and what they are thinking, but one should also try to decipher how the photographer was feeling as he stood on the sidelines and captured this emotional yet beautiful image.
Well, for now that is what I have uncovered, but I hope to start exploring microfilm before the week ends. Also, I have discovered that Cecil Stoughton wrote a book entitled “The Memories – JFK, 1961-1963” that I plan on checking out.