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William J. Colton | AP photo editor, 83

William J. "Sandy" Colton, 83, an Associated Press photographer and editor for two decades who supervised the news agency's conversion from black and white to color photography and other changes, died Thursday of heart failure at his home in Bleecker in Upstate New York.

During the Korean War, Mr. Colton was in the Air Force and assigned to the staff of Pacific Stars and Stripes, the unofficial U.S. military newspaper, where he wrote war features.

Frustrated by having to rely on Signal Corps photographers, he established the Tokyo-based paper's own photo operation and later, as a civilian, became its chief photographer, covering events across Asia and the Middle East.

Mr. Colton also wrote a historical account of the Air Force Research and Development Command, but turned down a subsequent offer of an officer's commission and a job as a USAF historian. "He said he was having too much fun covering the war," said his son James Colton.

He returned to the United States in 1961 and was hired by the AP in New York. Except for a three-year stint as photo editor at the Washington Evening Star, he spent his career with the news agency.

Mr. Colton covered space launches and other events while directing projects, including photographs for AP's book division, the conversion to color photography in the late 1970s, and a color-slide service for television that remains in use today. He also wrote a regular AP column on photography.

"Sandy Colton's versatility as both writer and picture guy made him especially valuable," said Hal Buell, former AP chief photo editor. "His experience, technical expertise and tireless work ethic helped AP solve problems at a time when photography was changing to all color, and eventually to digital transmission and digital photography."

He retired from the AP in 1984 and became a charter member of the Eddie Adams Workshop, an annual free workshop for 100 young photojournalists chosen from around the world.

- AP