Bernie Boston, 74; Took Iconic 1967 Photograph

"I knew I had a good picture," Bernie Boston later said of "Flower Power."
"I knew I had a good picture," Bernie Boston later said of "Flower Power." (By Rich Cooley -- Northern Virginia Daily)
By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bernie Boston, 74, a news photographer best remembered for his 1967 picture showing an antiwar protester tucking carnations in the rifle barrels of soldiers guarding the Pentagon, died Jan. 22 at his home in Basye, Va. He had amyloidosis, a plasma cell disorder.

Mr. Boston, who retired from the Los Angeles Times, was working for the Washington Star on Oct. 21, 1967, when he took the image he called "Flower Power."

The man with the flowers was later identified as teenage actor George Harris. He was making a nonviolent gesture against the soldiers, who were braced for trouble as they faced 250,000 demonstrators protesting the Vietnam War.

"I knew I had a good picture," Mr. Boston later said. "Flower Power" became one of the most reprinted pictures of the past 40 years, appearing in government textbooks and television specials about the era.

At the time, Mr. Boston could not persuade his editors of the shot's potential impact. They buried it inside the front section. Adding to his frustration, his car tires were slashed at the protest, and a bouquet of flowers was placed under his windshield wipers.

During a long career in Washington, where he was born, Mr. Boston covered every president from Lyndon B. Johnson to Bill Clinton.

He also captured intriguing moments of the civil rights movement and related news, including the Poor People's Campaign and President Richard M. Nixon shaking hands with protesters after the 1968 riots in Washington.

In 1987, he took a memorable photograph of Coretta Scott King unveiling a bust of her slain husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. The image was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, as was his 1967 shot at the Pentagon protest.

He developed instincts about emotionally revealing moments, catching a grim-faced Pope John Paul II staring down the media in 1979 and first daughter Chelsea Clinton retrieving her father's notes after they dropped during his 1993 inauguration.

Bernard Norman Boston, whose father was a general contractor, was born May 18, 1933. When he was 7, his parents gave him a Kodak Brownie. Later he became photographer for the newspaper and yearbook at the District's Armstrong High School.

He graduated in 1955 from the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, attended the Air Force's School of Aviation Medicine and served in the Army for two years in Germany as a radiologist in a neurosurgical unit.

Upon his discharge, he returned to Washington and did freelance photojournalism work before starting a full-time newspaper career. After a brief stint in Ohio taking pictures for the Dayton Daily News, he joined the Star in June 1967 and advanced to director of photography.

He remained with the Star, an afternoon paper, until it folded in 1981 and then inaugurated a photo operation in the Los Angeles Times's Washington bureau. He retired from the Times in 1993 and settled the next year in the Shenandoah Valley. In 2000, he and his wife bought the Bryce Mountain Courier, a monthly newspaper.

Mr. Boston received numerous professional honors, including the highest award of the National Press Photographers Association and induction into the Hall of Fame of Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2006, the Rochester Institute of Technology published a collection of Mr. Boston's photos spanning 40 years.

He was a former president of the White House News Photographers Association and the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival. A former McLean resident, he had served on the boards of educational, historical and arts panels and councils in Northern Virginia. He also learned to fly single-engine aircraft.

Among peers, Mr. Boston was known for his cowboy hats and mischief-making. He once conspired to stuff a colleague's bag with lead weights and spoke proudly of a contest to see who could roll oranges down the aisle of an airplane full of journalists without hitting anyone during takeoff.

"The press plane was always fun," he told Curio magazine in 2005.

His marriage to Dorothy Smith Boston ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 37 years, Peggy Peasley Boston of Basye.

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