A man who documented two years of Michael Jackson's professional life in photos has Hamilton County roots.
Bill Nation says the time he spent with the singer ranks among the most thrilling experiences of his life. Mr. Nation, who grew up on Signal Mountain and has relatives in the area, said he photographed Mr. Jackson from the end of 1995 until the spring of 1997 as the pop icon recorded videos and prepared for the "HIStory" world tour.
"It was one of the highlights of my life to be there with the King of Pop," said Mr. Nation, who now lives in California. "It was a fantastic vision of the world. He wanted me right there next to him, documenting everything."
News of Mr. Jackson's death June 25 came as a blow to Mr. Nation, but it was not surprising.
"He had a pretty stressful life. There were so many people tearing at him," Mr. Nation said. "The good die young, I suppose."
As far as photo subjects go, Mr. Jackson was a photographer's dream, Mr. Nation said.
"The Beatles told Michael that they regretted not having more of their performances and rehearsals documented, so Michael was very interested in having everything recorded," Mr. Nation said. "Because of that, I had incredible access."
That included a round-the-world, 10-day humanitarian trip with performances for the Sultan of Brunei and a drop-in visit to Nelson Mandela's home in South Africa.
"I knocked on the door at Mr. Mandela's house and said 'Mr. Mandela, this is Mr. Jackson,'" Mr. Nation said.
Mr. Nation still has plenty of Chattanooga ties. His brothers Jeff and Mike live here. So does his 86-year-old mother, Mary Louise Nation.
He graduated from Chattanooga High School in 1973 and was a photographer for the University of Tennessee student newspaper before working for the Knoxville Journal.
In 1980, he moved to California to attend the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, which led to a career in show business photography. In addition to shooting Mr. Jackson, Mr. Nation's portfolio includes images of Michelle Pfeiffer, Arnold Schwarzenegger and shots from the O.J. Simpson trial.
But after photographing Mr. Jackson, Mr. Nation left professional photography to manage a growing Ducati motorcycle dealership.
Michael Jackson's body was expected to arrive Thursday at his Neverland Ranch, located about 125 up the California coast from Los Angeles, for a public viewing on Friday, according to various national news sources.
A private funeral was planned for Sunday. It wasn't clear where he was going to be buried, but officials in his hometown of Gary, Ind., are lobbying for the pop legend to be buried there. Gary will hold a public memorial service on July 10, according to city officials.
Here in Chattanooga, fans still mourn the singer's death, but there was some hope that his name wouldn't be sullied by a host of negative news stories.
"It's all over the news, so you really can't escape all the details," said Chris Penn, 21, of Soddy-Daisy. "I really enjoyed his music, and you can't deny his talent. It's a loss, but hopefully after all the details come out, everyone can just remember him for his great talent."