Bill Swearingen, Charter Member of the Society of Camera Operators, Dies at 79

He worked on such films as 'Grease' and 'Earthquake' and on TV shows including 'The Waltons' and 'Happy Days.'

Bill Swearingen, a veteran camera operator who worked on movies including Airport and Grease and shows like Peyton Place and The Waltons, has died. He was 79.

Swearingen died Feb. 15 at a hospital in Fresno, Calif., his wife, Terri, told The Hollywood Reporter. He suffered a major stroke in 2011.

Swearingen was a charter member of the Society of Camera Operators, founded in 1978 with the aim of being recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He was elected the SOC's first sergeant at arms and remained in the position for years.

A native of Hollywood, Fla., who served in the U.S. Marine Corps., Swearingen in 1961 was accepted into IATSE Local 659 as a film loader at MGM, and he moved through the ranks to second assistant, first assistant and then operator during his long career. 

Swearingen was an assistant cameraman on the CBS drama Daktari in 1966 and went on to work on other shows including Happy Days, Mork & Mindy, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman and Falcon Crest.

His résumé also features the films Will Penney (1967), Earthquake (1974) and The Master Gunfighter (1975) and the 1980 Paul McCartney-Wings music documentary Rockshow.

In addition to his wife of 57 years, survivors include his children Cynthia, Kathleen and Laura and six grandchildren.