Bob Adelman, a photographer considered one of the foremost chroniclers of the civil rights movement, was found dead in his Miami Beach home Saturday by a friend who called police.
Miami Beach police would not confirm the identity of the elderly man whose body was in the house, saying they had not yet notified the family, but the county medical examiner’s website identified the dead man as Adelman, misspelled as Edelman.
A Miami Beach official with knowledge of the investigation said Adelman, 85, was found with a head wound.
Police were called to Adelman’s home on Post Avenue shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday after “friends of the deceased discovered an unresponsive elderly male within the home,” a Miami Beach police spokesman, Ernesto Rodriguez, said. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.
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Rodriguez said there were no signs of forced entry at the house. Six hours later, a crime scene unit was still at the property, which was strung with yellow crime scene tape, and officers were combing the neighborhood for evidence. Police were questioning neighbors at the station.
Adelman’s attorney, Ryan Tables of Miami, said Saturday night that Adelman left New York for South Florida after the death of Roy Lichtenstein, a close friend with whom he collaborated on work.
“He was an amazing man with a passion for civil rights, a sweetheart of a guy,” said Tables, who added he leaves a daughter in Canada.
Tables called Adelman “your typical New York Jew. He had a wit, was smart, was part of a movement and he had an aura about him.”
The two men met by chance. Tables and his wife were eating at Arnie and Richie’s deli on Miami Beach’s 41st Street about six years ago, and Adelman struck up a conversation with them. His home is right behind the deli, across a parking lot.
Adelman, born in October 1930, chronicled the Civil Rights era for leading U.S. magazines. His photo of Martin Luther King Jr., his right hand reaching toward the heavens as he wound up his “I Have a Dream” speech, is the iconic image for the March on Washington.
The New York Times said Adelman was born in Brooklyn and graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1946. He studied philosophy at Columbia University and joined the civil rights group the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE. He also captured the emergent artistic career of Andy Warhol.
His photos were on the covers of magazines and in exhibitions and collections at museums and landmarks, including the Smithsonian, Museum of Modern Art, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Margaret Mitchell House, and Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
Just two years ago, the NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale displayed about 160 of his photographs in The Movement: Bob Adelman and Civil Rights Era Photography.
Bonnie Clearwater, the museum’s director and chief curator, said at the time of the exhibit that Adelman “knew what he was doing during the civil-rights movement put him in a very dangerous place — right in the very center of the marches and protest. But actually, he was a student of philosophy, and he asked himself two questions: ‘What is the worst that can happen? I could be killed.’ So, the second question was, ‘Is this worth dying for?’ The answer was yes.”
Staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.