SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of family members and friends gathered July 14 at Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles to pay their final respects to famed photographer of the stars Bill Jones.
A pioneer for many African-American photographers, Jones was one of the first to work the celebrity beat in Hollywood.
Services began with military honors for Jones, a former member of the U.S. Air Force, who achieved the rank of sergeant. At sunset, shots rang out in the clear, California sky.
The Rev. Paul A. Hill led the service. A large picture of Jones with his beloved camera stood in the front of the church alongside his urn. White, yellow and purple funeral flowers adequately adorned the service.
Various colleagues and friends were invited to speak about their fond memories of Jones. In every tribute, he was constantly mentioned as a mentor in an industry where that is rare.
Christina Silva, host of “The Christina Silva Show” on LA Talk Radio, said he had an impact on her even though she only met him a few years ago.
“He was such a striking and peaceful, yet sure photographer,” Silva said. “He was kind and patient with me and he said ‘I like you. Are you military?’ and I said ‘I happen to be a Marine,’ and he said, ‘No one else would have the gall to get on this carpet. Come on around me.’ And I’ll never forget it,” she said.
April Sutton, a fellow Ohio native and media colleague, gave credit to Jones for helping her get many one-on-one celebrity interviews. She was the first hired Hollywood on-air talent for BET.
“There were only five of us here, we were working out of a garage in Glendale,” Sutton said. “That was the start of the West Coast BET.
“He said ‘well let me give you some advice. No matter how many celebrities you interview, no matter how many events you cover in Hollywood, don’t ever forget that Glendale location and don’t throw away your press badges.’
“‘One day those press badges are going to mean something. History has a way of escaping and people tend to forget where the beginning of things start.’ I’m very grateful for Bill to pass on that knowledge on to me.”
Not only did Hollywood respect Jones, but various city and state officials did, too. Ian Foxx, a Los Angeles photographer and close friend, read the many certificates of recognition given to Jones over the years by people like City Councilman Herb Wesson and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Songs were also part of the ceremony.
R&B and gospel singer Howard Hewitt showed up to sing his popular song, “Say Amen.”
“I’ve done this song so many times through the years,” Hewitt said. “Actually, I sang this song at my mother’s memorial and I’m honored to do it for you this evening.”
Despite being part of the Hollywood world, Jones never got caught up in the lifestyle. He was married to his wife, Reva Ochier, for 54 years before she died in 2011. They were very close and he would even take her to events.
Kathryn Gould, Reva’s sister, was honored to talk about Jones, whom she fondly called “Double B.”
“It was a very uplifting service. I’m happy, knowing him all my life and knowing the things that we shared, the foremost thing he loved other than photography was my sister and that love was always shown,” she said. “I’m elated that he’s been reunited with her.”
Jones’ granddaughter Latoya Jones was a big part in putting the service together. A candlelight memorial concluded the funeral.
“I want to thank everyone and all their support and to continue to keep his legacy alive,” Jones said. “Please keep us in your prayers.”
Jones died June 25at his home after battling dementia for the last few years. He was 81.