Times photographer assaulted after taking Legion picture
Sept. 24, 1947: Los Angeles Times staff photographer Paul Calvert was assaulted by three unidentified men at the closing session of the American Legion after he took this typical convention picture to illustrate “after convention” weariness.
This photo accompanied a story in the Sept. 25, 1947, Los Angeles Times reporting:
Paul Calvert, Times staff photographer, was slugged by three unidentified assailants wearing American Legion caps while two others pinioned his arms at the morning session of the State convention of the Legion yesterday.
Calvert, painfully but not seriously injured by the beating about the face and neck, was making a photograph of a man and woman assuming a weary posture in the balcony of Shrine Auditorium for use as an “after convention” illustration, when he was set upon by three men.
The hysteria which led to the assault was partially the result of an excited delegate shouting over a floor microphone that a photographer was making an “obscene picture” in the balcony. This was later denied from the rostrum by one of the subjects of the picture, Legionnaire Dick Fineley, who had given prior consent to the pose.
Unbeknown to Calvert, Lynn Peterson, Legion legislative chairman, had taken the floor a few minutes earlier to protest another news cameraman taking a photograph which offended Peterson’s taste. Peterson’s suggestion that the other photographer be forced to surrender his film was firmly ruled out of order by State Commander Richard H. Chamberlain, but aroused some of the delegates to action when Calvert carried out his assignment.
Calvert was rescued by Department Sergeant-At-Arms R. C. Neergaard, and Los Angeles police took him and his equipment, which the belligerent Legionnaires had threatened to destroy, into protective custody. The photograph in question, which was not surrendered, is reproduced herewith.
Gordon A. Lyons, Assistant Adjutant, apologized in behalf of the California Department to Calvert and The Times. He declared that the Times photographer was clearly in the right and did nothing to provoke the incident. Numerous individual Legionnaires sought out Times representatives to voice their emphatic disapproval of the “strong-arm” tactics used.
Later, Commander Chamberlain bluntly told the assembly:
“The American Legion supports the freedom of the press. The freedom applies equally to news columns and the photographic side.
“The American Legion invited the press to be here. Anything I said or could say should not be taken as a reflection upon the press.
“The Los Angeles press has done a fine job in covering this convention and the Legion should not interfere with any photographer in the performance of his duties.”
Calvert, incidentally, was a captain in the Signal Corps in World War II and did his fighting in France and Germany and today possesses four battle stars.
For more on Paul Calvert, check out this previous From the Archives post: People are crazy! A column by staff photographer Paul Calvert.
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