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Bob Moreland, 76, retired Times photographer, dies

By CRAIG BASSE, Times Obituaries Editor

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 20, 2002


Bob Moreland, an honored news and features photographer for the St. Petersburg Times, died Tuesday (March 19, 2002) at the Hernando-Pasco Hospice in Brooksville. He was 76.

Bob Moreland, an honored news and features photographer for the St. Petersburg Times, died Tuesday (March 19, 2002) at the Hernando-Pasco Hospice in Brooksville. He was 76.

Mr. Moreland, whose camera captured subjects ranging from American presidents to Elvis Presley, was moved to the hospice Saturday from a hospital, said his sister, Phyllis Geraghty of St. Petersburg. He had leukemia, she said.

Probably his most famous picture is of an alligator with its mouth wide open next to a "No Swimming" sign at Homosassa Springs.

Working at the time under contract for the attraction, he was showing a Life photographer around when he saw the gator attack the sign and snapped the shot.

"I got four frames, and the Life guy got off a couple," he once recalled, but it was Mr. Moreland's that the attraction owners chose for postcards and posters.

For the Times, he covered yacht races that began in St. Petersburg and ended in Havana. He and other photographers covered the first space shots. Film had to be processed in the car on the way back from Cape Canaveral.

He photographed Dwight Eisenhower, Adlai Stevenson, Robert A. Taft, John Kennedy, Estes Kefauver and Richard Nixon. "I almost got trampled to death shooting Nixon," he recalled. "I tripped and fell, and people just kept coming."

His work appeared in Life and in other publications, including Sports Illustrated.

During his 40-year career, he was based first in St. Petersburg and later in Citrus County, where he had a home at Homosassa. For about a dozen years until his retirement in 1992, he shot pictures for the Citrus Times, an edition of the St. Petersburg Times.

Since childhood, he dreamed of taking pictures for a newspaper. When he was in grade school in Youngstown, Ohio, he built a darkroom under the stairs in his family home. On weekends he carried the camera bag of a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette photographer on assignments.

As a young World War II Navy veteran he got his start as a news photographer in St. Petersburg. In 1949, he won a Times snapshot prize of $5 and went to the newspaper office looking for an opening.

"Tom Harris (then executive editor of the Times) told me twice to go away because he was too busy," Mr. Moreland recalled in 1992, "so I went back at 2 a.m. after they put the paper to bed and got the job."

That job was as a part-time darkroom technician. He became full-time the next year. Promoted to photographer in 1952, he began to win prizes.

The Florida West Coast Press Photographers Association twice named him photographer of the year. In 1957, he won first place in the National Press Photographers Association -- Encyclopaedia Britannica Contest. It was for a shot of Presley, who performed in the Tampa Bay area.

His first wife, Evelyn, to whom he was married for 35 years, died in 1983. Survivors in addition to his sister, include his wife of 11 years, Reba Moreland; two daughters, Michele M. Self, Villa Rica, Ga., and Terrie Moreland, Homosassa; and three grandchildren.

A service will be at 7 p.m. Friday at the Homosassa Chapel of Hooper Funeral Homes.

The family suggests memorial contributions to the Hernando-Pasco Hospice, 12260 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville, FL 34613.

-- Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

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