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In Memoriam: Darryl Heikes

The Briscoe Center mourns the passing of Darryl Lee Heikes, who died at the age of 79 on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Heikes was a prominent photojournalist who provided in-depth coverage of presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. His images appeared many times on the front pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post and numerous other publications.

“Darryl was one of his generation’s leading photojournalists,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “The body of his work will continue to inform, surprise and inspire students and scholars for many years to come.”

Darryl Heikes was born in 1938 in Kansas. He began his career in photojournalism taking photographs for his high school newspaper in Salina, Kansas. Later a student at Kansas State University, Heikes worked as a stringer for United Press International (UPI), the Associated Press, the Kansas City Star, the Topeka Capital Journal and the Salina Journal. After college, Heikes became a staff photographer for UPI. In 1963, he was in Dallas, Texas, when president John F. Kennedy was assassinated. For the next 18 years he worked at UPI bureaus in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Madison and Minneapolis. During that time he also traveled with presidents Johnson and Nixon to cover their activities on national tours.

Heikes in 2013 at the center’s opening celebration for the exhibit News to History. Heikes’s image shows President Kennedy’s limousine turning onto Main Street from Harwood Street in downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963, seconds before shots were fired at the president.

In 1981, Heikes began covering the White House for U.S. News & World Report. While based in Washington, he covered many historic milestones, including President Carter’s Middle East shuttle diplomacy, President Reagan’s Finland summit with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and President Clinton’s summits with Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Heikes also covered a number of national political campaigns, including those of George McGovern and Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. In addition, he was a gifted sports photographer who covered the Olympic Games in Mexico City (1968), Munich (1972) and Montreal (1976).

“Competition was my lifeblood . . . no matter whether it was a news, political or sports event,” Heikes told the Briscoe Center in a 2013 interview. “We had a contest every day working for UPI in the 1960s and 1970s especially in the Washington Bureau. If your picture was in the New York Times, the New York Daily News or the Washington Post, you won the contest.”

Heikes retired in 2001 and donated his archive to the center in 2006. The collection includes transparencies, negatives, contact sheets and prints spanning Heikes’s career as a photojournalist. It represents a rich and extensive visual documentation of the political and social history of the United States from the 1960s through the turn of the century. In 2013, Heikes was interviewed by the Briscoe Center about his life and career. You can view the interview on C-Span here: