Jim Wilson, former Globe assistant cinematographer, dies at 68


Mr Wilson, who was 68 when he died on November 3 at his Rowley home of cancer, spent 33 years at the Globe, first as a talented photographer and retiring as assistant director of photography.

In 1985, Mr. Wilson photographed the fight between Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns, which Hagler won by knockout, at Caesars Palace in Paradise, Nevada. Jim Wilson/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

A problem-solver who anticipated the dilemmas photographers would face, Wilson often coordinated coverage of major events, including the Super Bowl and the World Series.

“He volunteered for everything. Whatever was important, Jim wanted to be a part of it,” said former Globe cinematographer Bill Brett. “He could do anything. He found the place to be, the places to be, how to get in, how to get out. He always wanted to take care of others. Jim had a very kind heart.

Mr Wilson would “plan the credentials and work out where people could photograph”, said Bill Greene, the Globe’s director of photography. “He would find a way to do everything seamlessly.”

For Globe colleagues in the field, Mr. Wilson’s work before the events and while they were happening was invaluable, allowing photographers to focus on getting the right picture.

“He made it easy for us to cover a game,” said Globe photographer Jim Davis. “You never had any problems, because if there was a problem, he took care of it before you knew it.”

Mr Wilson worked at the Globe from 1982 until 2015, when he left in part so he could spend less time traveling to Boston and more time at home helping his son Ben, who was suffering from a serious health problem.

To keep his hand in the media, however, Mr Wilson worked as chief operating officer of Essex Media Group, which publishes newspapers including the Daily Item in Lynn.

The work provided a return to news and community from his youth, and his early experiences in photojournalism.

As well as being a mentor to young journalists, Mr Wilson “had his fingers in everything”, said Mike Shanahan, managing director of Essex Media Group.

Mr. Wilson was responsible for production and helped the company set up an online paywall. When something went wrong, or something happened at odd hours, he was on call.

“He answered the phone at 2:30 a.m. when the papers didn’t come in,” Shanahan said. “He slept with the police scanner next to him and woke everyone up at 4:30 a.m. when there was a fire.”

James Nelson Wilson was born March 30, 1954, in Lynn and raised there, the youngest of five siblings. He was a dozen years younger than Dolores Geyer, the fourth child of Cyril Wilson and Florinda Lemmo Wilson.

“He was pretty much like an only child during his growing years,” said Geyer, who now lives in Corona, Calif. “My mum and dad adored him. He was the light of their lives.

The affection was mutual, and Mr. Wilson “stayed on to care for mum and dad until they passed away”, she said. “He was very devoted to our parents. He really felt responsible for them.

Mr. Wilson grew up opposite his elementary school, became an Eagle Scout in 1971 and graduated the following year from Lynn English High School, making friends everywhere along the way.

“I used to call him the Pied Piper of the People because wherever Jim went he had a trail of people following him,” his sister said. “He just brought people into his life and he was always the light of every gathering.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree from what is now Salem State University and planned to become a pathologist, until a talent and passion for photography steered his life in a different direction.

Mr. Wilson photographed BB King performing at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston on May 18, 1985, after King received an honorary doctorate of music from the Berklee College of Music earlier that day. Jim Wilson/Globe Staff

Early work included shooting photos for the United Press International news service and the Daily Evening Item in Lynn, where his most memorable assignment was photographing the Great Lynn Fire of 1981, starting with the first alarm and remaining until firefighters clear the scene.

At the Globe, he meets Jane White, a colleague who stops by the photography offices one day to bring photos to the editorial office.

They married in 1991 at the Ritz Carlton in Dana Point, California. “We loved California so much,” she said. “We wanted to get married outside with a view of the ocean.”

He called her Lynx because he thought she was “sneaky, like a cat,” she said, and it became a nickname for the two of them – so much so that a friend of theirs son Matthew once introduced Mr. Wilson to the friend’s parents as Lynx “because he had never heard anyone call him Jim back home”.

At home, Mr. Wilson was as focused on logistics as he was at work.

“He was up early in the morning cleaning the kitchen,” Jane said. “I was very spoiled. He always made sure my cup and dishes were ready for breakfast.

Mr. Wilson also “loved to cook. I was spoiled with that too,” she said. “His favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. He loved to cook turkey. No one could be in his kitchen. He would use every dish and everything would be everywhere.

In addition to his wife and two sons, all of Rowley, and his sister, Mr. Wilson leaves another sister, Joan Sims of Lynn, and a brother, Edward of Kittery, Maine.

A funeral mass will be said Saturday at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Hope Church in Ipswich.

From the years of shooting with film and setting up portable darkrooms to develop custom prints, and all the way to all-digital photography, Mr. Wilson “was the guy who was always trying to think a year or two out of ahead, anticipating big leaps in technology and change and helping people overcome them,” Greene said.

“He wanted to make sure you were prepared,” Brett recalls, and that meant more than just making sure photographers went with the right cameras and lenses.

“If you needed a gas mask for a demonstration,” Brett added with a chuckle, “Jim would get it for you.”

Mr. Wilson accomplished it all with a welcoming smile and a relentlessly optimistic attitude, even at the end when he was sick.

“I would start a conversation, ‘Jim, how are you?’ And he said, ‘Wonderful.’ It was his expression: “Wonderful,” Brett said. “If there was a blizzard and nobody could get out? ‘Marvellous.’ He couldn’t wait to tell you when you called, “Wonderful.” “


Bryan Marquard can be reached at [email protected]

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