How did Dick Stolley die? Journalist, 92, had rights to JFK's assassination clip

Dick Stolley was best known for securing the rights for the 'Zapruder film', shot by Abraham Zapruder, which showed the details of JFK's assassination


                            How did Dick Stolley die? Journalist, 92, had rights to JFK's assassination clip
Dick Stolley served as the founding editor of People magazine and Editorial Director across all Time Inc magazines (Photo by George De Sota/Newsmakers)

Dick Stolley, the journalist who published key footage of JFK's assassination back in 1963 has passed away at the age of 92 on June 16. Stolley died in a nursing home in Evanston, Illinois, according to friends of his family. The cause of death is not available at the moment.

Stolley served as the founding editor of People magazine and Editorial Director across all Time Inc magazines. He is best known for securing the rights for the 'Zapruder film', shot by Abraham Zapruder, which showed the details of JFK's assassination in Dealey Plaza. He was an editor at Life magazine when president John F Kennedy was assassinated. The year 2021 has seen the demise of many great personalities like 'The Journalist and the Murderer' author, Janet Malcolm, 'Dawson's Creek ' writer, Heidi Ferrer and actor Frank Bonner to name a few.

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Stephen Shepard, Dick Stolley, Charles Peters, Byron Dobell and John Mack Carter attend The National Magazine Awards May 2, 2001 at the Waldolf Astoria in New York City (Photo by George De Sota/Newsmakers)

Stolley had immediately flown down to Dallas, Texas, just hours after the president was shot on November 22, 1963. Stolley was the very first reporter to contact Zapruder and got his hands on the tape before anyone else. Zapruder had taken his camera into Kodak and had three copies made. Zapruder was offered $150,000 for the footage by Stolley which was to be paid in annual $25,000 installments for a total of six years. Zapruder handed over the footage to Stolley, saying that the journalist had been the most polite out of everyone he had met with.

US statesman John F Kennedy, 35th president of the US, and his wife Jackie Kennedy travelling in the presidential motorcade at Dallas, before his assassination (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

After the iconic story, Stolley was promoted to editor of Life, before launching People magazine in 1974. Stolley spoke about securing the tape from Zapruder and told Time, "I got a phone call from a Life freelancer in Dallas named Patsy Swank. And the news she had was absolutely electrifying. She said that a businessman had taken an 8-mm camera out to Dealey Plaza and photographed the assassination." "I said, ‘What’s his name?’ She said, ‘[The reporter who told her the news] didn’t spell it out, but I’ll tell you how he pronounced it. It was Zapruder. I picked up the Dallas phone book and literally ran my finger down the Z’s, and it jumped out at me the name spelled exactly the way Patsy had pronounced it. Zapruder, comma, Abraham." 

"In terms of public record, I think it is very fortunate I found Mr Zapruder, " Stolley remarked. "I think the film helped impress upon the American people that he was dead. A still picture wouldn’t have done that. America had to absorb all that, " he further added. Dick Stolley was also inducted into the American Society of Magazines Editors Hall of Fame.

A spokeswoman for Meredith Corp, which owns the People and Life brands said talked about Stolley's death and said, “Dick Stolley was an essential force at LIFE through some highly influential years. His spirit and his sensibility remain part of the active brand and magazine today. Landing the Zapruder films was a seismic event for LIFE, for journalism and for the world. In recent years Dick continued to be a friend of the brand, offering fresh ideas and cogent advice. He loved LIFE, journalism and the business, and that showed. This is a great loss."

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