In February, Lake County resident Reggie Ward Jr. stopped by the Herald Democrat’s office with a set of historic photographs of Amelia Earhart. He wanted to see if the newspaper was interested in publishing the prints, photographs the Ward family had safeguarded for over 50 years.
The Earhart photographs first made there way to the Wards by way of Henry Edward Linam, the former president of the Standard Oil Company of Venezuela. Linam, who has since passed away, commissioned the photographs to be taken upon Earhart’s arrival to an airfield managed by Standard Oil and Pan American Airways in Venezuela on her attempted around-the-world flight.
Linam gave the photos to Reginald Ward Sr., Reggie’s father, in the 1960s when Ward Sr. was working as the aviation editor of the Shreveport Times. Linam was also living in Shreveport, Louisiana at the time.
Ward Sr. later passed the photographs down to his son in the hopes of preserving them for future viewers. Ward Jr., who worked in the photo room at the Shreveport Police Department at the time, was able to produce contact prints of the historic photographs. The prints have stayed with Ward Jr. ever since.
The photos printed on the surrounding pages are of Earhart’s stop in Caripito, Venezuela, on June 2, 1937 — an early layover in Earhart’s attempted circumnavigation of the globe. The images show Earhart and Fred Noonan, her chief navigator, servicing Earhart’s plane, chatting with employees of the Caripito airfield, and dining with locals.
About a month later, Earhart and Noonan would disappear over the Pacific Ocean, never to be seen again. Though theories on the fate of the pilots are still debated today, the U.S. Navy concluded that Earhart and Noonan ran out of fuel, crashed into the Pacific Ocean and drowned.