He was not only a photographer, but a reporter too, and knew how to become friends to develop sources, said his wife. McGovern proclaimed that he had “telephonitis” when every evening he would call lots of his friends round robin style, she said.
“He was a maverick,” longtime friend and former co-worker George Gananian said of McGovern. “He always went against conventional wisdom.”
When on assignment for a San Francisco 49ers game at Kezar Stadium, Gananian remembers the herd of photographers huddled together in one section of the sidelines. But McGovern was at the other end of the field, waiting for the play to come toward him. At just the right moment, when the sun was behind the offensive team, McGovern snapped a photo that worked with the sun, highlighting the players.
The other photographers had to zoom in and then crop their photos while McGovern knew how to frame his photo without much editing, Gananian said. “He damn near always got the shot he wanted,” Gananian said. With tight deadlines at the Redwood City Tribune, McGovern invented shortcuts to make the photo editing process go faster.
This photo by Reg McGovern of a 1952 magnesium
fire in San Carlos won a top award for spot news
McGovern was born in Redwood City, the son of San Mateo County Sheriff Thomas McGovern and his wife, Hilda, who became the first woman state traffic officers in San Mateo County in 1928, months after her husband’s death, said Janet McGovern.
McGovern lived in Redwood City for most of his life, and attended Sequoia High and San Mateo Junior College. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific aboard the ammunition ship the U.S.S. Murzim.
McGovern was first hired by the Tribune in 1945 as a staff photographer. His wife said he had a “natural nose for news and an eye for unusual angles.” He won numerous awards during his years at the Tribune, his wife said.
Years later, the McGoverns collaborated on the local history books “Redwood City,” “Redwood City Then & Now” and most recently “Menlo Park.” McGovern loved band music and in the early 1950s began his won record company, Fidelity Sound Recordings.
McGovern is survived by his wife, Janet; his two sons, Thomas of South San Francisco and James of Walnut Creek and his wife, Kim; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Plans for his memorial are being made, but donations can be made in his honor to the Salvation Army, Golden State Division, 832 Folsom St., San Francisco or Kainos Home & Training Center, 3621 Jefferson Ave., Redwood City.