During his 40-year career with The Florida Times-Union, Foster Marshall was known as an innovative photographer who came up with the idea of using a homing pigeon to carry film of a presidential visit from a locked-down naval base. A few of the memorable events Mr. Marshall photographed were the Roosevelt Hotel fire, the visits of six presidents, the arrival of the Beatles and Hurricane Dora. Mr. Marshall died on New Year’s Day of complications from pneumonia. He was 83. He retired in 1994 as assistant managing editor for graphics. In 1970 Mr. Marshall was the only still photographer to shoot the sinking of a Navy vessel loaded with nerve gas. He was the pool photographer for all newspapers and wire services. “We flew figure eights over the ship, waiting for it to sink for eight hours,” he said in a 1985 Jacksonville Journal interview. They had pulled the plug, but it just wouldn’t sink. Finally it just slipped beneath the surface to the relief of everyone.” In his younger years Marshall had a reputation for being ready to do anything “He did some hair-raising things,” said Stephanie Marshall, his wife of 58 years. “I would say, ‘Don’t tell me before you go and do these things. Just tell me afterward.’ ” During Hurricane Dora in 1964, she said, he was taking photos on the Jacksonville Beach Pier when the wind started dismantling some of the boards. Mr. Marshall said in an interview that he remembered being awakened by a phone call from the fire department at 4 a.m. on Christmas Eve in 1956 and told that a plane had crashed. The 17 people aboard had been killed. He said it had a psychological effect on him seeing the holiday presents strewn around the wreckage. Another unforgettable disaster was the Roosevelt Hotel fire that took 22 lives in December 1963. Mr. Marshall took a haunting black-and-white image of three firefighters hauling a stunned, soot-covered woman out of the hotel. Times-Union photographers Bob Self and Will Dickey, who were hired by Mr. Marshall, related the pigeon incident. President Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy had come to Mayport Naval Station in 1984 to attend a memorial service for the sailors killed aboard the USS Stark during an Iraqi missile attack in the Persian Gulf. The day before the visit, the newspaper was told that the Secret Service would restrict movement on the base until Air Force One had departed. Self, who was covering the service, wouldn’t be able to leave the base with his film in time for the afternoon deadline. So Marshall told his staff to find a homing pigeon. Robert Bernard, a Jacksonville pigeon racer, agreed to help. Photo editor Don Ray devised a mini-capsule that was attached to the pigeon’s leg. Self carried the pigeon in a ventilated box onto the base with his jacket casually draped over his arm. He got shots of the grim-faced Reagans holding hands as they climbed down from the plane. Self placed the film in the capsule and released the bird. The pigeon flew to Bernard’s home, where a newspaper lab technician was waiting to speed the film across the Mathews Bridge and into the newsroom to the cheers of staff. “Foster came up with the idea and it worked,” Dickey said, adding that the journalistic coup got a lot of press attention. Mr. Marshall was born in Jacksonville in 1935. While attending Andrew Jackson High School, he worked for United Press as a telephoto operator. After graduating from Jackson in 1954, he joined the Times-Union photo staff. Mr. Marshall was promoted to supervisor in 1966 and was named chief photographer in 1970. Mr. Marshall became illustration editor of the TimesUnion in 1979, assistant director of news illustrations for the Times-Union and Journal in 1980, director and then assistant managing editor for graphics in 1983. Don Burk, a retired Times-Union photographer who also was hired by Mr. Marshall, said he was an outdoors enthusiast who enjoyed fishing and hunting. Mr. Marshall once said the job gave him the opportunity to fish with Joe DiMaggio and Jack Dempsey and see the heavyweight champion of the world turn green from sea sickness. In addition to his wife, Mr. Marshall is survived by a son, Scott of Pensacola, two grandchildren and a sister, Marlene Mizell of Keystone Heights. There will be no funeral service. Burial will be private.
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