Charles Del Vecchio, 69, a prize-winning photographer on The Washington Post for more than 40 years and a former president of the White House News Photographers Association, died of congestive heart failure Monday at his home in McLean.
Mr. Del Vecchio began his career at The Post in 1935. He retired at the end of 1978.
In the course of those years, he took photographs of just about every kind of event that occurs in the Washington area. He covered the White House, Capitol Hill, sports, civil disturbances, various crimes, including gambling in southern Maryland, the weather, sunrises and sunsets, and people from every walk of life.
In election day in 1954, he took a picture of a Maryland state senator buying a vote. In 1955, that picture, taken with a telephoto lens, won Mr. Del Vecchio first prize in the "spot news" category in the White House News Photographers Association annual contest. President Eisenhower presented the award to him.
Mr. Del Vecchio won numerous other honors in those competitions and in others sponsored by The Newspaper Guild and similar organizations. In 1950, one of his photographs, "Mounted Policeman in Riot," was selected among the "best-of-show" pictures in the Seventh Annual "News Pictures of the Year" competition sponsored by the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the Encyclopedia Britannica. A total of 3,002 pictures were entered in that contest.
From time to time. Mr. Del Vecchio had his own picture taken with the famous. He was photographed with presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon, among others.
Some of these occasions grew out of his presdency of the White House Press Photgraphers Association, a position he held in 1961. Others happened just because he was there.
When President Nixon observed his 57th birthday on Jan. 9, 1970, Mr. Del Vecchio remarked that that was his birthday too. Nixon asked where he was born. "Rome," said Mr. Del Vecchio, mindful of his Italian heritage. "Rome, New York." Nixon asked the photographer to pose with him and gave him the picture as a birthday present.
There were other times when Mr. Del Vecchio's subjects were not at all happy to have him around. A case in point was an assignment he drew in 1949 to get pictures of gambling in North Beach, Md., then widely known for the ready availability of gambling games there.
One photgraph he got was of a 10-year-old boy playing a slot machine. At the time, slot machines were legal in Calvert County, but the players had to be at least 16 years old. The difficulties began as soon as Mr. Del Vecchio's flash bulb went off.
The result was that Mr. Del Vecchio and the reporter, John M. London, were chased by hoodlums, strongarmed by the manager of the gambling place, and intimidated by local police and the sheriff. The law demanded that Mr. Del Vecchio give up his film. He got out of it by palming off an unused piece of film. The picture of the 10-year-old ran on Page One.
Mr. Del Vecchio remained fully active as a news photographer and editor until his retirement despite the onset of failing health.
Having been born in Rome, N.Y., Mr. Del Vecchio remained there until about 1930, when he moved to Washington. His first job here was with the Harris & Ewing photographic firm, and there he learned his trade. His second job was with The Washington Post. He stayed with this newspaper until his retirement except for World War II service in the Marine Corps.
Mr. Del Vecchio's survivors include his wife, Rita C., of McLean, where the family has lived for many years; three children, Rita Collier of McLean, Charles, of Falls Church, and Christina Summers of Vienna; a brother, Nicholas of Rome; two sisters, Connie Dandino and Alice Michael, also of Rome, and seven grandchildren.