Jim Wilson was a 20-year-old college student studying chemistry and physics, on a path to fulfilling his father’s hope that he would become a doctor, when he glanced at the scene outside his bedroom one day.
In the years ahead, Mr. Wilson would earn a reputation of always sensing the right place and angle from which to frame a photo. On that day in 1974, he later recounted for a Boston Globe book, Mr. Wilson borrowed his father’s camera, “leaned out his bedroom window, and made a picture of a tree.”
Soon he was juggling science classes with shooting photos part time for a Lynn newspaper. Instead of heading to medical school, he became a news photographer, falling asleep for the rest of his life to the crackle of police scanners he left on in his bedroom.
Mr. Wilson, who was 68 when he died Nov. 3 in his Rowley home of cancer, spent 33 years at the Globe, initially as a talented photographer and retiring as deputy director of photography.
A problem-solver who anticipated dilemmas photographers would face, Mr. Wilson often coordinated coverage of major events, including the Super Bowl and the World Series.
“He volunteered for everything. Anything that was big, Jim wanted to be part of it,” said Bill Brett, a former Globe director of photography. “He could do anything. He figured the place to be, the spots to be at, how to get in, how to get out. He always wanted to take care of other people. Jim had a very kind heart.”
Mr. Wilson “would plan credentials and figure out locations for people to shoot,” said Bill Greene, the Globe’s director of photography. “He would find a way to get it all done seamlessly.”
For Globe colleagues in the field, Mr. Wilson’s work in advance of events and while they were happening was invaluable, freeing photographers to concentrate on getting the right shot.
“He made it so easy for us to cover a game,” said Globe photographer Jim Davis. “You never had any problems, because if there was a problem, he took care of it before you knew about it.”
Mr. Wilson worked at the Globe from 1982 to 2015, when he left in part so he could spend less time commuting into Boston and more time at home helping his son Ben, who was dealing with a serious health issue.
To keep his hand in media, though, Mr. Wilson worked as chief operating officer of the Essex Media Group, which publishes newspapers including the Daily Item in Lynn.
The job provided a homecoming to the news and community of his youth, and his first experiences in photojournalism.
Along with being a mentor to young journalists, Mr. Wilson “had his fingers in everything,” said Mike Shanahan, chief executive of Essex Media Group.
Mr. Wilson was in charge of production and helped the company institute a pay wall online. When anything was amiss, or something happened at an odd hour, he was on call.
“He answered the phone at 2:30 in the morning when the papers didn’t show up,” Shanahan said. “He slept with the police scanner next to him and would be waking everyone up at 4:30 in the morning when there was a fire.”
James Nelson Wilson was born on March 30, 1954, in Lynn and grew up there, the youngest of five siblings. He was a dozen years younger than Dolores Geyer, the fourth of Cyril Wilson and Florinda Lemmo Wilson’s children.
“He was pretty much like an only child for his growing up years,” said Geyer, who now lives in Corona, Calif. “My mother and father doted on him. He was the light of their life.”
The affection was mutual, and Mr. Wilson “stayed taking care of mom and dad until they both passed away,” she said. “He was very devoted to our parents. He felt really responsible for them.”
Mr. Wilson grew up across the street from his elementary school, became an Eagle Scout in 1971, and graduated the following year from Lynn English High School, making friends everywhere along the way.
“I used to call him the pied piper of people because wherever Jim went, he had a trail of people following him,” his sister said. “He just brought people into his life and he was always the light of every gathering.”
He received a bachelor’s degree from what is now Salem State University and planned to become a pathologist, until a talent and passion for photography sent his life in a different direction.
Early jobs included shooting photos for the United Press International wire service and the Daily Evening Item in Lynn, where his most memorable assignment was photographing the Great Lynn Fire of 1981, beginning with the first alarm and staying until firefighters cleaned up the scene.
At the Globe, he met Jane White, a colleague who stopped in the photography offices one day to bring photos out to the newsroom.
They married in 1991 at the Ritz Carlton in Dana Point, Calif. “We loved California so much,” she said. “We wanted to be married outside overlooking the ocean.”
He called her Lynx because he thought she “was sneaky, like a cat,” she said, and it became a nickname for both of them — so much so that a friend of their son Matthew once introduced Mr. Wilson to the friend’s parents as Lynx “because he had never heard anyone call him Jim at our house.”
At home, Mr. Wilson was as logistics-oriented as he was at work.
“He was up early in the morning, cleaning the kitchen,” Jane said. “I was very spoiled. He always made sure my mug and dishes were set up for breakfast.”
Mr. Wilson also “loved to cook. I was spoiled with that, too,” she said. “His favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. He loved to cook the turkey. Nobody could be in his kitchen. He would use every single dish and everything would be everywhere.”
In addition to his wife and two sons, all of Rowley, and his sister, Mr. Wilson leaves another sister, Joan Sims of Lynn, and a brother, Edward of Kittery, Maine.
From the years of shooting with film and setting up portable darkrooms to develop prints on assignment, and on into all-digital photography, Mr. Wilson “was the guy who always was trying to think a year or two ahead, anticipating big technological leaps and changes, and helping people get through them,” Greene said.
“He wanted to make sure you were prepared,” Brett recalled, and that meant more than just ensuring that photographers headed out with the right cameras and lenses.
“If you needed a gas mask for a demonstration,” Brett added with a chuckle, “Jim would get it for you.”
Mr. Wilson accomplished it all with a welcoming smile and an endlessly upbeat demeanor, even at the end when he was ill.
“I’d start a conversation, ‘Jim, how are you?’ And he’d say, ‘Wonderful.’ That was his expression: ‘Wonderful,’ " Brett said. “If there was a blizzard and nobody could get out? ‘Wonderful.’ He couldn’t wait to say it to you when you called: ‘Wonderful.’ "
Calling hours will be held on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, from 5 to 8 pm, at F. S. Roberts & Son Funeral Home, 14 Independent Street, Rowley, MA. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m., on Saturday, November 12, 2002, at Our Lady of Hope Church, 1 Pineswamp Rd., Ipswich, MA.