Source: The Oak Ridger | Donna Smith | March 29, 2019
James Edward “Ed” Westcott, Oak Ridge’s official photographer during the Manhattan Project in the 1940s, died on Friday, March 29, 2019, at the age of 97.
Westcott reportedly died peacefully at the home of his daughter and son-in-law, Emily and Don Hunnicutt. Martin Oak Ridge Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. The family will receive friends from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 4, with the funeral service to follow. Burial will be at 11 a.m. Friday, April 5, in Oak Ridge Memorial Park.
The famed photographer’s death came on the day an exhibit of his photos titled “HerStory: A Photography Exhibition of Women in the Secret City” opened at the new Oak Ridge History Museum in the building formerly known as the Wildcat Den or Midtown Community Center to many Oak Ridgers. His death also came less than a week after Westcott appeared at the grand opening of that museum and shot photos of the ribbon-cutting himself, as chronicled in a front-page photo published in The Oak Ridger on Thursday, March 28, by his friend, D. Ray Smith, city historian and longtime columnist for the newspaper.
“Ed Westcott was Oak Ridge’s champion, a friend to every person he met, a creative genius and an American hero,” Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch stated in an email. “His iconic photography recorded the history of the Manhattan Project, the creation of Oak Ridge, and our city’s contributions in helping win World War II, the Cold War, and the scientific advances over 75 years which have enhanced mankind. His work chronicled the life and times, talent, hard work, sacrifice and patriotism of the tens of thousands of men and women who made it happen.
“While we mourn the passing of a great man and dear friend, we are comforted by the fact that we are better people for having known him, and Oak Ridge’s contributions to our country and to the world are forever memorialized because of his vision and indomitable spirit,” Gooch concluded.
“Ed Westcott served our nation and Oak Ridge like few others, documenting our history with accuracy, compassion and an artist’s eye. The fact he labored in secret, producing his photography only for those with high-level security clearances, makes his work that much more impressive,” Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally of Oak Ridge stated in an email Friday morning. “He was a truly great photographer but, most of all, he was one of us. Choosing to return to his roots after being summoned to Washington, D.C., he became one of Oak Ridge’s most valued citizens and historians. Our hearts go out to his family and all who admired his great work. He will be missed.”
“Ed Westcott was an American hero,” U.S. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann stated in an email Friday. “Thanks to his brilliant eye and tireless work ethic, generations of Americans have had the opportunity to peek inside the once Secret City of Oak Ridge, learn about the incredible mission that was the Manhattan Project, and gain an understanding of our nation’s history. As the sole photographer of the Manhattan Project, his images connect the past to the present by telling the story of a time that would have otherwise gone undocumented. To honor his contributions, I joined with my colleagues in the Senate to nominate him for the Presidential Medal of Freedom — our nation’s most highly regarded civilian award and a fitting recognition for a true patriot. I am deeply saddened to learn of his passing but incredibly thankful to have known him. Ed was beloved by the East Tennessee community and will be sorely missed, but certainly never forgotten. My prayers are with his loved ones during this difficult time.”
Westcott was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Jan. 20, 1922, wrote his friend Ray Smith in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/.