James M. Kelmartin, a photographer who shot most of the city's major news stories during a 40-year career at the News American, died Thursday of cancer at Stella Maris Hospice. He was 67.
From the 1940s until the day the paper closed in 1986, Mr. Kelmartin took thousands of pictures of Baltimore and Maryland, often infusing the subject matter with a strong sense of composition.
"You knew when he went out he'd never come back empty handed," said Richard Tomlinson, a colleague for many years.
Although Mr. Kelmartin enjoyed taking photos of waterfowl grazing on a Queen Anne's County cornfield, or the boats at Tilghman Island, he was a first-rate news photographer.
His action photo of the Tru-Fit Clothing Co. fire in the 500 block of E. Baltimore St. on Feb. 15, 1955, where six firefighters died, ran in many papers across the country.
He took many first-place awards in competitions sponsored by United Press International, the Associated Press and the Hearst Corp.
Editors said they were confident they could send him to a society tea at the Hammond-Harwood House or a boxing match at the Fifth Regiment Armory and he'd produce an excellent photograph.
He began his career as a copy boy at what was then the old News-Post. He left the paper for World War II service with the Army on Okinawa and later in Japan.
He became a staff photographer after the war and shot many of the news stories of the period -- the construction of the Bay Bridge, the victories and defeats of the Baltimore Colts and the Major League Baltimore Orioles.
On his own enterprise, he also turned in feature photographs to editors that often wound up being prominently displayed in the paper. He was particularly happy at shots that were infused with a sense of humor.
After the News American folded, he worked for the Towson Times and the Carroll County Times.
Born in Baltimore, he attended Blessed Sacrament School and Towson Catholic High School, where he played on the basketball team.
Funeral services will be conducted at 11 a.m. Monday at the Eline Funeral Home, Reisterstown Road at Franklin Boulevard.
Surviving is his wife, the former Irene Rostek; two sons; James P. Kelmartin of Baltimore and Kevin Kelmartin of Chestertown; a stepson, Michael G. Allen of Savage; three daughters, Kathleen Kramer of Shrewsbury, Pa., Janet Krupsaw of Perry Hall and Eileen Scharch of Tilghman; three brothers, the Rev. John Kelmartin of Baltimore, William Kelmartin of Finksburg and Thomas Kelmartin of Clark, N.J.; two sisters, Ann Kelmartin and Mary Brocato of Baltimore; and 12 grandchildren.