Reflections by Sammy Way: Sumter Item photographer Heyward Crowson won top S.C. press award

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 2/17/19

Reflections remembers a spectacular explosion which occurred at the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad yard in September 1968, and The Sumter Daily Item photographer Heyward Crowson was there to capture photos.

One photo earned Crowson first place in …

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Reflections by Sammy Way: Sumter Item photographer Heyward Crowson won top S.C. press award

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Reflections remembers a spectacular explosion which occurred at the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad yard in September 1968, and The Sumter Daily Item photographer Heyward Crowson was there to capture photos.

One photo earned Crowson first place in the annual press awards contest sponsored by the S.C. Associated Press. The following article was published in The Item in February of 1969 to commemorate the event and is being reprinted with a degree of editing.

"The prize-winning picture, displayed on the front page of The Sumter Daily Item in September of 1968, was taken by Heyward Crowson at the moment a boxcar carrying explosive propellants erupted, scattering white-hot casings in every direction. One narrowly missed Crowson as he snapped his picture. The fire had somehow started in the boxcar the night before, causing an explosion heard by most of Sumter."

"Being close to the action was nothing new to Crowson, who was a Marine combat photographer during World War II and never lost the knack of all good camera artists of being in the right place at the right time. Crowson's skill with photography is legendary in the Sumter community, as he is credited with taking the first aerial photos of what proved to be the site of Shaw Field while flying in a Piper Cub with Billy Lynam of Sumter Airways. Crowson has taken the images of four United States presidents - Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon - during his tenure at The Item.

"A native of Sumter, Crowson first put his hands on a camera at the age of 12 when an aunt presented him with one as a gift. He and the camera were inseparable from that moment. By the age of 15, Crowson was playing with what he referred to as 'an early instant camera' - one with a built-in developing system used largely by commercial photographers at fairs and carnivals. He named this his 'pre-Polaroid era.' He endeavored to stay abreast of the many changes in the field of photography. He was one of the early users in South Carolina of the 35 mm cameras (first utilized in 1937) and the then relatively unknown Rolleiflex.

"Mr. Crowson joined the Sumter Daily Item in 1942, and except for 'a leave of absence' to enter military service during World War II, serving from 1944-46, was on staff continuously. He married the former Ruth Cain and had three children. His son Bruz also worked for the same newspaper as a photographer. Heyward Crowson holds a proud distinction, which has nothing to do with photography, as he remains one of the county's foremost blood donors, having given literally gallons of blood to the American Red Cross over several years."