||William "Bill" Carpenter Bridges was born May 13, 1925, in Palestine, Texas. Bridges
was the only child of Oscar Burnett Bridges and Ruth Carpenter Bridges, two
vaudeville veterans. (In 1915 his parents drove Birth of a
Nation around the country, his father serving as road manager and his
mother playing piano accompaniment to the movie.) Although born in Palestine,
Bridges spent most of his youth in Houston where his father owned several movie
houses. Every day after school Bridges joined his parents at one of the theaters,
where he sat in the office and did his homework until the last movie ended. Once
Bridges was tall enough to reach the counters he helped out selling concessions
while his mother sold the tickets and his father ran the projectors. When the
show of the night ended the family went out for a big bowl of chili before they
headed home to bed.
||Following his graduation from Lamar High School in Houston in 1943, Bridges moved
College Station where he enrolled at Texas A&M University. After just
several weeks he transferred to the University of Texas at Austin where he enrolled
in the Bachelor of Journalism program. However, before completing even one semester
of college, Bridges was drafted for World War II.
||Bridges began his military training at Keesler Field (now Keesler Air Force Base)
Biloxi, Mississippi and was part of the last graduating class of Army Air Force
cadets. Largely due to the success of the Allies' air attacks, Bridges' class
cadets was "given" to an Infantry division to be retrained as riflemen. Bridges
sent to the 86th Infantry Division at Camp Polk, Louisiana. He was then relocated
Camp Howze in Gainesville, Texas, where he joined the 103rd Infantry Division.
the 15th of September, 1944, the 103rd began its journey to the European Theater
Operations, passing through Camp Shanks in New York, and sailing to Marseilles,
France. After a couple of weeks in Marseilles, the 103rd moved to Docelles, France,
and into the Vosges Mountains where they engaged in battle with the German Army.
Following the Vosges Mountain Operations, the 103rd went on to fight in the Battle
of the Bulge and a lesser known battle called referred to as Little Bulge, more
commonly known as Hitler's Nordwind Operation. It was during Little Bulge on January
19th, 1945, that Bridges was taken prisoner by the Germans in Sessenheim. Hitler's
original orders were to execute all prisoners, but miraculously Bridges and his
fellow riflemen were spared and instead were marched to Stalag 13. From here he
sent out on "kommando" duty to a work detachment in Marktsteft, Bavaria, where
worked at the local brewery (Privatbrauerei Kesselring). Eventually a rumor spread
that Allied troops were approaching, so Bridges and several other POWs hid for
several days so as to avoid transfer to another work detachment. The American
never arrived. Bridges and the others were re-captured but were spared execution
the pleas of the townspeople who feared General George Patton would level their
in retaliation. Bridges and his fellow prisoners were marched for two days until
they were rescued near Würzburg by the 29th Infantry Division.
||Following his rescue, Bridges was transferred to a hospital in England and treated
for his many maladies, including blood poisoning, hepatitis and malnutrition.
a month or so in England he was placed on a hospital ship and sent to Boston.
States-side, Bridges spent an additional five months in hospitals before being
to Hot Springs, Arkansas for further recovery. Upon his return to Texas, Bridges
determined to keep himself out of any further infantry affairs, so he joined the
Counterintelligence Corps (CIC), an Army Reserve Military Intelligence outfit.
worked for CIC until he was discharged in 1946.
||Following his discharge Bridges decided to return to his studies at the University
Texas. But before going back to Austin he enrolled in, and successfully completed,
flight training program at a small airport outside of Houston. Around this same
Bridges met his future wife, Anne Elizabeth Barbour (1923-1985) of Yazoo City,
Louisiana. They were married in 1947 and had two children together, Ward Burnett
Bridges (1948-1981), and Kate Barbour Bridges (b.1950).
||After receiving his pilot's license, Bridges re-enrolled at the University of Texas
in the Journalism program. He was halfway through the spring semester of his junior
year when he was informed that his G.I. Bill had expired; the flight training
accelerated the remaining time on the G.I. Bill. At that time, in 1950, a person
with a Bachelor of Journalism (B.J.) degree was making $34.50 per week, and a
without a B.J. was making $31.50 per week. Given the small difference in pay,
with a wife and son to support, Bridges was forced to forego his final year of
school and strike out on his own.
||Bridges began his journalism career originally intending to become a magazine art
director. While studying at the University he worked for the Texas Ranger, a student-published humor magazine. After leaving school,
Bridges moved his family to Houston where he got a job working on Texas Industry, the magazine for the Texas Manufacturers
Association. After a couple of years in Houston, Bridges moved the family again,
this time to El Paso where he landed a job as associate editor of The Pipeliner, the corporate magazine for El Paso
Natural Gas. After a couple of years there he found he was spending more time
searching for a new job than working on his current job, so on January 1st, 1955
||The year 1955 proved pivotal in Bridges' career. Following a job prospect from Road & Track magazine, once again Bridges packed
up, loading his wife, son, daughter, cat and parakeet into their two cars and
for Los Angeles. Upon arrival in Los Angeles, Bridges learned the job at Road & Track was already filled. Needing
immediate employment, Bridges took a job with the Los Angeles Harbor Commission
photographing incoming ships. On weekends he supplemented his salary by working
the newly opened Disneyland were he drove a canal boat through Fantasyland. Around
this same time Bridges also enrolled at the Los Angeles School of Design, but
his work schedule Bridges found little time for his studies, so again he left
||Bridges' first big break in the field of photojournalism came in 1957 when he got
job as a freelance "runner" for Life magazine. His
first assignment was to cover "Ditch Day" at Cal
Tech University. He arrived on location armed only with one camera, a Rolliflex,
fitted with a 50mm lens. Nonetheless his resulting images were published in an
article titled "Light Turns for Spring Fancy." For
the next four years Bridges continued to work as a runner for Life. Although never hired to be a staff photographer, financially this
arrangement suited Bridges. In the same year he would have earned $18,000 as a
photographer, he earned $30,000 working as a runner and doing other freelance
The quality of his worked grew during this time, and Bridges credits Life with teaching him just about everything he ever
learned about photography. In 1958 his talent was recognized by the Art Directors
Club of Boston which gave him an award for his photograph, from the same year,
||In 1961 Bridges left his job as a runner and began working for the Saturday Evening Post, which was in the process of
changing its format in an effort to compete with Life. Bridges was hired as a staff photographer, and during his eight years
at the Post his photographs illustrated well over 100
published stories. These stories were some of his most memorable and include his
coverage of John F. Kennedy's funeral, the state of mental health care in the
States, the case of Dykes A. Simmons, Jr. (an innocent American held in a Mexican
prison), and poverty in America. Bridges was greatly honored when several of his
photographs were selected to be part of an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution
titled "Profile of Poverty" (May-June 1965).
Bridges remained with the Post until the magazine
ceased production in 1969.
||After the Post folded, Bridges maintained his workflow
by hiring an agent, Franz Furst, and redoubling his freelance efforts. He took
assignments from magazines as well as corporations, including Exxon and General
Electric. Unfortunately by the late 1970s failing eyesight forced Bridges to shelve
his camera equipment.
||After retiring from the field of photography, Bridges turned his talents towards
cooking, writing, and helping his wife, Anne, with her antique business. In 1981,
after several years of extensive research, his The Great
American Chili Book was published. Sadly that same year tragedy struck
when his son, Ward, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Then in 1985, just four
years later, his wife Anne died of cancer. For the next three years Bridges coped
with his losses, but continued to dabble in antiques. Then one weekend while working
at an outdoor antique market, Bridges met his future second wife, Charmane Halsey
(b. 1936) of Michigan. On Valentine's Day in 1989 the couple was married, and
that year they moved to Bridges' home town of Palestine, Texas. Bridges continued
pursue his writing career, writing articles for Simple
Cooking, and had hopes of publishing a book on barbeque.
||Bill Bridges died of a stroke at his home in Palestine on December 16, 2003.