News photographer Al Bullock captured history

Former Channel 7 photographer Al Bullock at home in Belmont in 2015. Post file photo.
Former Channel 7 photographer Al Bullock at home in Belmont in 2015. Post file photo.

Daily Post Staff Writer

A Belmont man who captured many historical events as a Navy cameraman and later as a KGO-TV Channel 7 photographer — including the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 — died yesterday (Aug. 16) at age 96.

Albert “Al” Bullock was born in 1923 and grew up during the Great Depression.

Hailing from Utica, N.Y., he left home at 17 to join the Navy. Bullock was shipped to Pearl Harbor as an 18-year-old second class photographer’s mate.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Bullock was on Ford island, filming the attack “armed with nothing more than a hand-cranked 16 millimeter camera,” said friend and former KGO reporter Peter Cleaveland.

From that point on, Bullock was a combat cameraman, recording and photographing the war in the Pacific.

And Pearl Harbor was just the first event that Bullock captured on film.

Attack on USS Franklin

On March 19, 1945, Bullock again recorded a historic event. He was aboard the USS Santa Fe that day, when a lone Japanese aircraft dropped a bomb on the nearby USS Franklin.

When the USS Franklin was hit, Bullock told the Post in 2015 that everyone was trying to get off the ship, while he was trying to get on.

The USS Santa Fe came to the carrier’s aid and the wounded were moved off the Franklin, while the remaining crew guided the vessel home. Out of a crew of more than 3,000, about 1,100 were killed by the bomb and the explosions that followed.

After the war, Bullock moved to San Mateo and worked a variety of jobs, but had his eyes on the news business, according to an article about Bullock by the San Francisco and Northern California Chapter of the National Academy of Television.

In the early 1960s, Bullock filmed auto races, including one that ended in a fiery crash. Roger Grimsby, news anchor and news director at KGO, watched how Bullock covered the events, according to the Academy of Television article.

Grimsby bought the film and KGO eventually hired Bullock in 1962.

Bullock worked at KGO until 1992. During his tenure there, he was behind the camera, catching the best shots for stories about the Free Speech movement in Berkeley in the late 1960s, the kidnapping of Patty Hearst in 1974, and the Jonestown massacre and assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978.

Jonestown massacre

Bullock told the Academy of Television that he took one of the last photos of Congressman Leo Ryan before he was shot and killed at the airport in Guyana. Ryan was going to check out what was happening at the Jonestown compound that was run by Rev. Jim Jones.

Bullock took a photo of Ryan at the airport and then got on a plane back to the Bay Area. He and Cleaveland ended up going back to Guyana to cover Ryan’s assassination and the mass suicide of more than 900 of Jones’ followers who drank the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid.

Collected cameras

After retiring in 1992, Bullock collected vintage cameras and old TV news editing equipment.

In 2008, Bullock decided to fight the system by making a case against a red-light cameras in San Mateo.

Bullock told the Post in 2008 that he first suspected San Mateo’s red-light cameras were malfunctioning when he approached the intersection at Hillsdale Boulevard and Saratoga Drive and noticed the camera’s lights were constantly flashing.

After navigating through the ongoing road construction, he pulled over and stepped outside to investigate.

He told the Post that he was trying to figure out how to take a picture of the constant flashing when the lights stopped.

After getting the ticket a few weeks later, Bullock began a crusade to fight the area’s red light cameras, teaming up with attorney Frank Iwama, who ended up being successful in getting red light tickets thrown out throughout the county.

Bullock is survived by his children, Candice, Bob and Georgette, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

1 Comment

  1. My father was on the USS FRANKLIN March 19th, 1945. He came home safe. I remember Mr Bullock and his outstanding work he did here in the bay area as well. He will be missed. May he rest in peace. God Bless his friends and loved one and my his memory always be a blessing.

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