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The Iron Man of State Employees

Timothy Hyman’s 66 years on the job

If you’re under the age of 50, can you imagine life without the Chesapeake Bay Bridge? Or I-95 connecting us to the rest of the East Coast? Timothy Hyman remembers. He was there as the bridge — originally only one span, now carrying traffic eastward — was built. And as seven decades worth of interstates opened to motorists. Doing his job as state highway administration photographer, he captured now-iconic images of the roads and bridges that take us where we want to go.
    Through September 30, you could have called Hyman at his office to ask him to fill you in on what you’d missed. No longer. At month’s end, the 79-year-old retired from a career that began when he was only 12 and ended with an accumulated 5,000 hours of sick leave. He seldom — some say never — took a sick day, instead passing his leave on to others in need.    
    He’s the Cal Ripken Jr. — the Iron Man — of state employees.
    No fuss needs to be made about his career beginning so early, Hyman says, boasting that it was quite normal for people to “put their age up” when applying for jobs. “All you needed was a notary seal. No birth certificates were required at the time. I got the job and my driver’s license at age 12.” He drove a 1949 Ford.
    Hyman’s earliest photo assignment — no questions asked about his age — was documenting the construction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which opened in 1952.
    A decade later, he photographed President John F. Kennedy cutting the ribbon to open I-95. That November image was snapped just days before the president’s assassination.
    By then, his youth had become an issue.
    “The comical part,” he says, “is that in the 1960s they sent out this memo that the state would now require proof of age. So I thought I was going to be in trouble. Then it became clear that many of my bosses, supervisors and the higher-ups had all put their ages up to get jobs, get married, go into the Army, whatever.”

Timothy Hyman photographed the construction of the Bay Bridge in his 66 years as state highway administration photographer. “The people who constructed these projects worked so hard for the citizens of Maryland,” he says. “The actual projects were one thing, but the dedicated people doing the work still amaze me.”

    But there was a catch. As state workers looked to retirement and Social Security, he says, “you had to have the correct birth date in your records. We were all granted immunity for that. It was just something people did back then to survive. No one worried about how old you were; they were concerned with you getting the job done.”
    While Hyman worked, governors came and went: William Preston Lane, Theodore McKeldin, Millard Tawes, Spiro Agnew, Marvin Mandel, Blair Lee, Harry Hughes, William Donald Schaefer, Parris Glendening, Robert Ehrlich, Martin O’Malley, Larry Hogan.
    For most of Hyman’s career, photography was a fairly complicated process with tripods and flash bulbs and developing film in dark rooms.
    “I had this Brownie camera, and I ruined many, many shirts developing the photos,” Hyman says.
    Hyman has been a witness of immense changes.
    “I made the switch to a digital Nikon a few years ago after begging the department for a long time to get one,” Hyman said. “They just handed me the camera and the manual, and I had to figure it out on my own.”
    Now that he’s retired, Hyman plans to tour America.
    “I want to be on the passenger side again,” he says. “It’s so different when you view the world through the camera.”