The longest-serving state employee in Maryland is about to retire, but don’t ask him about his retirement plans. After 66 years on the job as staff photographer for the State Highway Administration, Tim Hyman says he doesn’t have any.
“I’m going to play it by ear, day by day,” says Hyman, a member of AFSCME Local 631 (Council 3). “Whatever happens, happens. I learned one thing that is good for me for survival and that is, don’t worry about anything. If you have a problem, and you worry about it, you have two problems. The problem itself and the problem of worrying about it.”
It’s this kind of wit and sense of humor that endear Hyman, best known as “Mr. Tim,” to many of his coworkers in Hanover.
Wynton Johnson, Local 631 president, recalls meeting him: “I met Mr. Tim years ago at a function, and he was taking pictures. The character that he is, that’s what drew me to him.”
Hyman’s career as staff photographer began in 1949. World War II had just ended four years before. President Truman was still in office. Hillary Clinton was two years old. So, how old was Hyman in 1949 when he started working for the state?
“Twelve,” he repeats. “See now, you look surprised because what you’re doing is you’re thinking of the now system, and not compared to the way things were then. Back then, you find that most people put their age up to get jobs, to get married, to go into service, to go into bars. That was the thing back then, and the reason most people put their age up is because they needed jobs.”
Hyman was born in northeast Baltimore and now lives in Randallstown. His first job, he says, was when he was five years old.
“Down in the corner of this block where I lived was a AAA duplicating service,” he recalls. “So every day on my way going to school by myself, I would stop in there and ask the lady who owned the duplicating service: Do you want your trash emptied? Want me to sweep the floor, want me to dust? And I did it so much until she told me, ‘I’m going to give you a job.’”
At his first job, he made $3 a week.
“That was when I started working and I haven’t been out of a job since,” Hyman says. “Or been dismissed from a job, or been disciplined from a job.”
Rumor has it he’s hardly taken a day of sick leave in his career. In fact, he claims to have more than 5,500 accumulated hours of sick leave.
Throughout his career, Hyman used 30 different cameras, each time adapting to subtle and not-so-subtle changes in technology. His favorite remains the Speed Graphic, his first camera.
“The Speed Graphic and Crown Graphic I like because you could blow it up to the size of a building and not lose any details,” he says. “This was the old press camera, if you remember from the movies. You put the flash on there and the bulb pops out and then you put another bulb there. This was the camera that started the whole mess.”
As staff photographer, Hyman captured the highway infrastructure development projects that transformed the Maryland landscape in the second half of the 20th century. He took pictures of governors, presidents and celebrities. On Nov. 14, 1963, he photographed John F. Kennedy during the opening of Interstate 95, just eight days before the President was assassinated in Dallas.
Throughout his career, Hyman has been guided by his parents’ and grandmother’s example and advice.
“I have a main guiding principle that my father gave me, and he said, ‘I don’t want excuses, I don’t want reasons. I’m looking for results,’” he says.
Early on, he says, he developed a motto that lasted throughout his career: “My job title is this: Whatever it takes to get the job done.”
And that’s what he’s been doing for 66 years. With pride and dignity.
Today, Hyman doesn’t do much highway photography anymore.
“I don’t have to because most of the people who are engineers are equipped with cameras, little 35-mm cameras,” he says. “And that’s good because they can get shots on the spot of different things. And they have all these phone cameras and different things. That’s why I say I’m getting out at the right time.”