Ed Clark's career as a professional photographer spanned a period of 60 years, during which time he became an internationally known photojournalist. Born in Nashville, Mr. Clark dropped out of high school to join the Tennessean as a staff photographer. He had never used a professional camera before, but he was "willing and cheap." As time passed, he became the crack photographer for the Tennessean and his pictures were widely bought by newspapers and magazines in the U.S., the UK, Denmark and Holland. In 1936, he became a stringer for LIFE magazine and joined its staff in 1944. It was the picture of Sergeant Alvin York, World War I hero, enlisting for service that caught LIFE's eye, and they ran it for two pages, invited him to Washington, gave him a few assignments and offered him a job. Clark initially turned it down as he did not want to leave Nashville, but he began freelancing regularly for LIFE. He eventually joined LIFE's photographic staff, where he worked for 22 years. During that time, his assignments took him to Beverly Hills, Paris, Moscow, London and Washington D.C.
It was the spring of 1945 and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the country's only four-term president, who led a shattered American people through the Depression and most of the Second World War, had just died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Ed Clark drove all night from Nashville to Warm Springs, Georgia to cover the news. He arrived to a swarm of photographers, all trying to get the best view of the hearse carrying Roosevelt's coffin. It was then that Clark heard one of Roosevelt's favorite hymn, "Goin' Home," being played on an accordion. With his Leica camera in hand, he snapped a few frames of Navy bandsman Gordon Jackson with tears streaming down his face as he played. Apparently, no one else saw what Clark had seen, and Clark's dramatic photograph became the symbol of a nation in grief. This photo took up an entire page in the next issue of LIFE.
Clark was present at many of the historic moments of the 20th Century. He photographed Hermann Goering, the German Luftwaffe commander at the Nuremberg war crime trials. He was the only photographer allowed in the Oval Office on Eisenhower's last day as President; he followed J.F.K. on the presidential campaign trail and was the only photographer invited to the reception when Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Becall wed.