Ed Westcott was, in every sense of the word, a photographer.
His passion was photography. It was his passion before he became the photographer for Oak Ridge,” said Katy Jett, president of Explore Oak Ridge.
Born in Chattanooga in 1922, Westcott’s love of photography started at an early age.
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“He was a creative photographer. If you look at his images, you’ll notice they’re sharp,” Westcott’s son-in-law Don Hunnicutt said.
In 1942, the Army Corps of Engineers hired Westcott as the only photographer to document life inside the then-secret community of Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project of World War II.
“Ed was a humble man who saw his work as just doing his job. Little did he know that this many years later, his work would indicate what took place in Oak Ridge, Tennessee,” Hunnicutt said.
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“Ed took such great pictures that not only captured the scientific innovations done here but the lives of the people,” said Documentary Filmmaker Keith McDaniel, who produced six Oak Ridge documentaries using Westcott’s photographs.
Westcott’s photos focused on the people. People like Ruth Huddleston, who can be seen in one of Westcott’s famous photos featuring the ‘Calutron Girls.’
“I was a cubicle operator. They call it the Calutron operator now,” Huddleston said. “I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. I was just pushing buttons and turning knobs.”
Westcott’s favorite photo and arguably his most famous was one he took while off the clock, proving furthermore how much he loved what he did.
“He always had a knack of capturing what was actually going on, so you knew what was happening even without words,” Jett said.
Later in life, words were hard to come by for the photographer, who suffered a stroke, hindering his speech, but not his spirit.
“He would still shake hands and greet them with a smile,” Hunnicutt said.
“He was kind of a jokester. He had a lot of humor. I think that filtered down to me,” said Westcott’s youngest son, John Westcott. “He was a great father, mentor, and really great guy.”
Less than a week before his death, Westcott still had a camera in hand, documenting life in the community he called home.
“We were down here at the [Oak Ridge] History Museum, and he was just taking photos and enjoying himself as he always did,” John Westcott recalled.
“It was probably his last picture,” Jett said about a photo Wescott snapped during the ribbon cutting of the new Oak Ridge History Museum on Saturday.
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