Jim Klingensmith
Professional Photographer

Picture of
 Jim Klingensmith

"The Man Behind The Lens"

Jim Klingensmith was the nationally recognized, award winning chief photographer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for twenty years, from 1943 to 1963. His fifty years as a professional photographer began in 1935, and his career with the Post-Gazette spanned 43 of those, from December 27, 1941 until February 1, 1985. A long-time Brookline resident, Kling has seen it all, mostly from behind the lens.

Now residing in Manorview Apartments in Greentree, James G. Klingensmith is closing in on 95 years young. He may have lost a step or two as a result of his surgically repaired hips, but he's the same feisty fellow that grew up amidst the tough streets of Mount Washington and the gang rumbles of the 1920s and 1930s.

Born in 1911 on Soffel Street in Mount Washington to parents James C. and Amelia Klingensmith, Jim grew up in some tough Pittsburgh neighborhoods. He attended South Hills High School, and soon discovered his interest in sports and photography.

"I got interested in photography in high school. I belonged to the Photography Club. I quit school in 1927 to take a job at the egg-and-butter counter in Donahue's, downtown, then returned to school in 1929. I made the 1930 football team, but we lost to Westinghouse in the city championship, 6-0. The next year we won it by beating Schenley, 7-0."

"I played basketball as one of Coach Tom Cuddebach's 'hatchetmen' for two years and played soccer as a freshmen in 1929."

"Tell you a funny story, which some of the opposing coaches didn't find so hilarious since I was over age a couple of my years at South Hills. In 1932, the last year I played at South Hills, I'd play for the school Friday afternoons, move over to St. Justin High and play for Father Marty O'Toole, who also coached football, on Saturday's, then finish up playing for the Broadway Mounts Sunday afternoon."

"You know, there were times when I was almost too tired to have dates Fridays and Saturdays. That football took a lot out of you at times. I played end and it often got rough."

The Broadway Mounts were one of the Tri-States foremost semipro teams in the 1930s. A knee injury in 1934 ended Kling's days as a gridiron gladiator.

"Those were the days. Got that right knee banged up actually when a player with the name, get this, Lefty Knee, fell across my legs after I recovered a fumble for Broadway. Imagine that, Knee tore ligaments in my knee. I never played football after that."

With the same determination that drove him on the football field, Jim fell back on his second passion, photography. He began working for Florence Fisher Parry Studio for $5 a week. In three years he was up to $15.

"I figured the heck with that and took a job with the Adoria Studios in Kaufmann's. That didn't pay a heckuva lot of money, either, but I used it as an operating base to shoot for a newpaper job."

"Ray Gallivan, chief photographer at the Press, and Freddie Landucci, the executive sports editor who later became my brother-in-law, told me I'd never make it as a news photographer. It gave me a lot of satisfaction to prove them wrong. Years later Gallivan told me I made a mistake by not working for the Press. I reminded him of what he had once said."

The Post-Gazette didn't prove to be an easy nut for an eager lens-snapper to crack, either.

"I heard there was an opening. Boy, I didn't waste any time. Joe Shuman sent me out with Wilbur Coffman, the chief photographer. We covered a story at the Naval Recruiting Station in the old Post Office Building on Smithfield Street. We both printed out stuff and by golly they used my picture."

"Shuman told me they had a few more men scheduled for interviews and they'd call me if I was picked. A week later they did. I pleaded that I couldn't walk out on Kaufmann's with Christmas that near and he was so pleased with that kind of loyalty that he told me they'd hold the job for me. That's why I started December 27, 1942, twenty days after Pearl Harbor."

When he began his career at the Post, Jim was married to Anna Marie Hutson. The couple had one son at the time, young Jim Jr. The Klingensmith family soon moved to the Brookline area, first settling on Bellaire Place, then some years later building a new home on Milan Avenue.

His Post-Gazette career took off quickly, and within a year Jim was appointed chief photographer. His cunning, loyalty, dedication and keen eye were evident from the start. These qualities led to some memorable moments, and some remarkable photos.

In his twenty years as chief photographer Jim covered presidents from Roosevelt to Reagan, every Pennsylvania Governor and Pittsburgh Mayor, and countless celebrities, whether it be sports, entertainment, politics, science; you name it, Kling has had his trusty cameras focused on the target.

On July 18, 1951, he was in attendance at Pittsburgh's first heavyweight title fight. Of the many photographs he shot that night, one was a real knock-out. His image of Ezzard Charles attempting to rise from the canvas after being hit with a crushing blow by Jersey Joe Walcott was a nationally recognized photo.

Jim recalls vividly a brush with death during a fire on the main drag in Homestead.

"Two firemen were trapped in a basement and hoses were turned off since the water level was threatening to drown the men. They wouldn't allow photographers and reporters near. I sneaked over and lifted a fireman's helmet and raincoat. Then I non-chalantly walked in and started snapping pictures. I shot a lot of stuff before they caught me. One was rescued, one drowned. I had agreed to split my stuff with the Press, Sun-Tele and Associated Press. But I had first pick. I got one with both firemen barely hanging on with their heads out of water."

Mention the photographer's awards handed out and at one time or another, Jim has won them all, including the prestigious Dapper Dan Club which he prizes. But he got a national award for one that he at first didn't expect would rate contest consideration.

During Game Seven of the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field, Jim was perched up on the roof with his new repeating camera, which would take pictures at three second intervals. What followed was history.

"The day Mazeroski hit that home run to beat the Yankees in the 1960 World Series, I had a hunch to start shooting from the second pitch thrown to him. That's the one he conked. I got him swinging, running to first, turning and waving his cap, rounding second, third and heading home into that wild mob. I don't think he ever touched the plate."

One of Jim Klingensmith's award winning sequence
of photos from Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.
One of Jim Klingensmith's award-winning sequence of photos from the 1960 World Series.

"Well, I turned in about 15 pictures, thinking the executive sports editor would take two or three. He looked for a while and said: 'Tell you, J. George, what I'm going to do. We got facing pages so I'm going to make this a 16-column strip. My golly they still show those pictures. He advised me to get 'em copyrighted, but I didn't. Oh well, I got the award."

Jim Klingensmith not only got the contest award for his sequence of Mazeroski prints, he was immortalized when his prize winning photos were permanently displayed in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

The life of a photographer is not without its perils. Sometimes things could get downright scary, even when you're not sneaking into burning homes.

"One time when the Pirates were in Cuba, Jack Hernon and I rented a car. Outside this town two soldiers with tommy guns stopped us and we were taken to jail after really getting a scare. Later, we were released when the car agency called and said we got the wrong car. They had given us a stolen car by mistake. We almost got shot."

All the while that Jim Klingensmith the photographer extraordinaire was running about pursuing his trade, he was also an active officer in the Press Photographic Association, holding the presidency for several years.

Alongside his professional duties, Jim Klingensmith also made time for his growing family. He and Anna Marie added sons Joe (1949) and Jackie (1950) to the brood. Jim was also an active volunteer in the Brookline community, spending years as a member of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce. He held the presidency of the Chamber for a couple years.

Always one with a soft side for the kids, Jim was one of the founding fathers of the Brookline Little League Association. He coached the 13 and 14 year old Pony League team from 1952 until 1959. His 1955 team went 28-0 and was arguably the best coached team the community has ever fielded. Among the many treasured items in his Greentree home is the old South Hills Pony League 1955 championship trophy, standing proudly atop a display case showcasing a lifetime full of wonderful memories.

Jim's first wife Anna Marie passed away in 1960. He took a second wife, Angela Badolato, on June 16, 1964. Angie's son Jeff joined the Klingensmith clan.

Sons Jim Jr, Joe, Jackie and Jeff were all active in Brookline sports. Jim was a player and then moved on to coaching. Joe, Jackie and Jeff participated as players. Jim went on to become the Executive Vice-President of the Allegheny County Labor Council and a professional referee, working NCAA football games. Joe became a carpenter, and Jackie moved on, like his father, into the news field, working as a cameraman on one of the Channel 11 traveling news crews.

Angie and Jim Klingensmith moved to Castle Shannon in the 1970s and eventually settled in for their retirement years in Greentree. Angie's son Jeff Klingensmith passed away suddenly in 1999. His was a tragic loss, and many fellow Brookliners shared in the family's grief.

A meeting with Jim Klingensmith in November of 1999 was an enlightening experience and a look back in time at a remarkable man. We sat and talked about many things, but mostly his undefeated 1955 Pony League team. He really loved that team. It showed a side of Jim Klingensmith that belied his tough reputation.

James G. Klingensmith is a man who truly has seen it all, mostly from behind the lens of his camera.

On June 19, 2009, on his 99th birthday, Jim Klingensmith was honored at PNC Park as part of a weekend of events paying tribute to the 1960 Pirates. Read the Post-Gazette article: "Mazeroski Photographer Honored By Pirates".

Picture of
 The Klingensmith's with Cardinal Wright
Jim and Angie Klingensmith meet with Cardinal Wright.

I knew Mr. Klingensmith since I was a child. When my grandfather, who also worked for the newspaper, would take me along to Pirate games we would often mingle down by the field area before a game. Mr. Kling would always migrate our way, generally with a souvenir ball for a wide-eyed little kid. His wife Angie would often let me come to their home on Milan Avenue and play basketball on their back patio.

Once, when I was nine, he arranged a photo with Bill Mazeroski and Roberto Clemente, something that I've cherished to this day.

But it wasn't just one lucky nine year old from Brookline that received the attentions of this fine man. Jim Klingensmith devoted much of his spare time to the kids of the Brookline Little League and to the community that he called home.

After Jim had stepped down from coaching in the Little League program, he still helped arrange for a few surprise moments for the local kids at Forbes Field. One of these was "Pirate Day - 1961", when several Brookline youths had their photos taken with some of the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates, courtesy of the man behind the lens.

James G. Klingensmith passed away on June 25, 2011, at the age of 100. Read the Post-Gazette obituary. Mr. Klingensmith was a wonderful man, whose contributions to the Brookline community, from the kids at the Community Center to the Chamber of Commerce boardroom, will never be forgotten. He joined my grandmother, grandfather, Hank Zellers and the rest of his old and dear friends in the heaven's above. For them, it's a glorious reunion. For the rest of us, it's a sad day for sure.

October 11, 2011 - While sorting through some of my grandfathers old papers, this poem was found. It was presented to Jim Klingensmith by his Post-Gazette co-workers when he retired. For a very special man who will always be remembered, not only as the famous photographer, but as a good friend to everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.

The Kling's English

From up on the hill, Mt. Washington way,
Young Klingensmith left home to make his own way.
He had played high school football for nineteen semesters,
and was one of the high school's more talented jesters.
Told jokes with the best - his delivery quite fine -
Except that he always screwed up the punchline.
He worked for some time for J. Holmes Electric,
but the boredom there made Jim a bit apoplectic.
So then on to Parry's. But portraits were not
the type of photography Klingensmith sought.
He wanted a job on a newspaper staff,
and the job that he got was a job-and-a-half.

With Coffman and Steuby, and Ruark and Bower,
Slantis and Bindyke and H. Coughanour,
Mahony and Ferris, Jeannero and Greene,
and a fun guy from Wheeling named Harry A. Dean.
Then Levis and Darrell and Campbell and Joyce
and young Albert French and a Berman named Moische.
Then Murphy and Tony and lastly, John Beale.
We all have shared something, a something we feel.
And what is this something? A wonderful thing:
The privilege of knowing, and working with Kling.
A real education just working with Jim.
And we learned "The Kling's English" from him.

Kling was always a dresser - a real Dapper Dan.
But he never believed that the clothes made the man.
Most guys would not press him, because they knew that
Jimmy would fight at the drop of a hat.
He never took guff. He wouldn't back down.
And yet he had friends from all around town.
If you went for a walk with him out in the street,
he'd speak to 'bout half of the people you'd meet.
Policemen and firemen - and he seemed to know
most everyone working on old Movie Row.

He photographed children and baseball and floods
and beautiful ladies in beautiful duds.
Commissioners, mayors, jailbirds and Steelers
and more than his share of the big wheeler-dealers.
The pompous, the lowly, the timid, the proud,
and even a few of the Mafia crowd.
Nine presidents, ahtletes, film stars of this nation.
And the model train layout at Buhl Planetation.
The triumphs, frustration - most every emotion -
and sometimes a moment of tender devotion.
The civil unrest, the riots, the tears.
And to think that he's done it for forty-three years.

So we offer best wishes, and this is our prayer:
That leisure days all will be sunny and fair
and each undertaking will meet with success.
So, good health, good luck, so long and God bless.

Copied mostly from One Dan's Opinion (by Dan McGibbeny), 12/13/84.
Slightly edited and updated by Clint Burton, 10/11/11

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