Henry Herr Gill · 2004
Ernest A. Wilkinson
Indiana Hall of Fame Board Member
Henry Herr Gill’s quiet life in retirement in Nevada and his boyhood years in Indiana give no clue about the exciting, rewarding and often dangerous career he experienced as a photojournalist at home and in far off places.
After Air force service during the Korean War, Gill returned home to Washington, Indiana, where he soon became retail advertising manager and photo editor of The Washington Daily Times. He subsequently became writer-photographer for Mississippi State College for Women and news photographer for the University of Miami Publications Department. While at Miami, Gill’s career as a photojournalist was enhanced by the mentoring of Wilson Hicks, former picture editor of Life magazine.
Gill soon was on the staff of The Chicago Daily News and later worked for The Chicago Sun-Times. He spent 15 years as a photographer in the Sun-Times Foreign Service. His work with the Chicago newspapers led to assignments in 92 countries. His photographs and films in the world’s hot spots have been highly acclaimed.
One of his documentary films, “War with Many Faces,” about the war in Vietnam won the coveted television Emmy. Another documentary about drug trafficking, “The Cocaine Express,” was also nominated by the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences for another Emmy. One of his editors, Creed C. Black, managing editor of The Chicago aDaily News, wrote of one of Gill’s many dangerous assignments: “Henry Herr Gill of Te Chicago Daily News is the only American newspaper cameraman to visit the guerilla leader, Cesar Montes, and his followers in the mountains of Guatemala – and to return alive. Two other Americans were killed trying to reach the Sierra de las Minas hideout of Montes. To get the picture story of the Communist rebel leader and his band, Gill defied threats on his life by the fanatical ‘White Hand’ of Guatemala, which also threatened Daily News foreign correspondent, Georgie Anne Geyer, whom Gill was accompanying.
“They eluded secret police ‘shadows,’ furtively contacted Montes agents and sympathizers, and after uneasy, seemingly endless wait in Guatemala City, were led on a hike through the black mountain nights, sleeping in the hills while Reds armed with machine guns stood guard.
“The revealing photographs resulting from this hazardous mission provide a dramatic chapter in the history of our Central American neighbor and a significant contribution to clearer understanding of developments that hold an ominous warning for the future of peace in the Western hemisphere. The Chicago Daily News considers this pictorial record of Montes and his guerilla fighters an exceptionally outstand example of news photography.
Of another assignment Roy M. Fisher, editor of The Chicago Daily News, had this to say: “World attention was focused in good part during 1967 on three areas of the world – Russia, celebrating 50 years of the Soviet regime; India, marking a year of decision in surprising returns from a national election, and Vietnam, where the complexities coincident to U.S. involvement seemed to multiply in a ration exceeding and degree of escalation.
“Correspondents and cameramen by the scores covered these areas – but the pictorial report achieved by one, Henry Herr Gill, staff photographer for The Chicago Daily News, far excelled in eye-impact and meaningfulness. Gill skillfully blends starkness and sensitivity to accomplish this outstanding example of feature photography.”
And Ralph Otwell, executive vice president and editor of The Chicago Sun-Times, wrote: “The murky underworld inhabited by the cocaine trade is trail littered with corpses and cash. Special Writer Rick Soll and Director of Photography Henry Herr Gill followed that trail from the jungles of Peru- the heart of the world’s coca bush country – to the streets of Chicago, Soll and Gill slogged through snake and disease infested swamps, dodged bullets, and endured threats to report the story of “The Cocaine Express.” On several occasions they ventured to places no American newsman had ever gone.
“The resulting eight-part series, widely reprinted in newspapers throughout the United States, was commended by outgoing U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration Chief Peter Bensinger.”
After he retired from The Chicago Sun-Times, Till established, marketed, and served for several years as president and executive editor of a news, feature and wire service. Globalfoto, in Rome, Italy. This organization served major newspapers in 29 countries in three languages.
During a career that spanned four decades, Gill received many honors and awards. He was especially pleased to have been named by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as Photographic-Pool coordinator aboard the USS Hornet for the recovery of the first astronauts to walk on the Moon.
Numerous professional journalistic organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists and the Overseas Press Club, also have recognized Gill’s work with prestigious awards.
Now he has the highest honor Hoosier journalism has to award – induction into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.