Clarence B. "Curly" Garrett, a retired Baltimore Sun news photographer whose career spanned nearly four decades, died Saturday of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at Homewood at Plum Creek, a Hanover, Pa., retirement community.
The former Ellicott City resident was 88.
The son of a Baptist minister and a homemaker, Mr. Garrett was born and raised on the family farm in Pelzer, S.C. He attended local public schools.
"He dropped out of high school his senior year and went to Baltimore to work for the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River," said his wife of 67 years, the former Bettie Rock, a longtime sales associate at Hutzler's department store in Westview.
After enlisting in the Navy in 1943, Mr. Garrett was trained as an aerial photographer at the Eastman Kodak Photography School, and later served as a photographer's mate aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain.
After being discharged from the Navy, he worked for Ritz Cameras before going to work as a photographer for the Sunpapers in 1946.
"We started two weeks apart at Christmastime in 1946," said Walter M. McCardell Jr., a retired staff photographer. "We got along well together, and he was very proud of his work. He liked doing a good job and was a very competent photographer."
In 1966, he was named photographer of the year by the Baltimore Press Photographers Association, winning five of the 12 categories in addition to the six-picture folio that won him the top photographer's award.
His work also was published in Life magazine and his expertise at outdoor photography earned him awards at annual Chesapeake Appreciation Day contests.
"Garrett's extraordinary visual sense consistently won him photography awards, just as it earned him top assignments at the Baltimore Sun. He took photographs for The Evening Sun, The Sun and The Sunday Sun," said an Evening Sun article recalling his career at the time of his retirement in 1985.
Mr. Garrett was a well-dressed, distinguished-looking man with movie star good looks, from his dark eyes and carefully trimmed pencil-thin mustache, to the wavy, dark curly hair that he combed straight back and earned him his nickname.
He photographed six presidents — from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan — and covered President Kennedy's funeral in 1963.
He covered the 1962 Ash Wednesday storm that hit Ocean City, and braved waist-deep water to get pictures of the disaster while "hurricane winds whipped waves through the streets," reported The Evening Sun.
During the 1968 riots that ensued in the wake of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Garrett was on the streets of East Baltimore chronicling the looting and burning buildings.
One of his memorable assignments was visiting Maryland Penitentiary's death row, where he spent several days preparing a photo essay on the inmates.
Another assignment involved someone else taking the pictures.
"It was at a cloistered Carmelite convent where men were never admitted," said the 1985 article. "He put his camera on a turntable in a door and explained to a nun how to operate it. She made the pictures and returned the camera on the turntable."
"The pictures that Garrett has made during his long career make up an extraordinary collection of the work of a photographer with the rare ability to capture both the fleeting moment of the fast-breaking news story in a hospital emergency room and the sensitive drama that unfolds in a cloistered convent," said the article.
"He was a cheerful guy with a real nice personality, and photographically, got what he was after, no matter what the assignment," said John H. Plunkett, a retired Sun managing editor.
"Curly was a very spirited kind of guy and a good photographer. He was a very agreeable man and could do all kinds of things," said Ernest F. Imhoff, a retired Evening Sun editor and Sun reporter. "He was an old-school general assignment photographer — sports, breaking news, features and portraits — and could shoot anything. He got along with people who always loved seeing his big smile."
Mr. Garrett's kindness to new staff members was legendary.
"Curly took some great pictures during his years at the paper. He was very polite and kind — a real Southern gentleman. For a long time, I was the only woman photographer in the department, and he was always very kind to me," said Barbara Haddock Taylor, who joined the newspaper in 1984.
"I remember on Saturday mornings they'd all be playing poker in the photo department and I had to cover their assignments," Jed Kirschbaum Jr., a colleague who recently retired from The Baltimore Sun, said with a laugh. "He was an affable man and always tried to help me. If you looked at his past work, you could see how good he was."
Mr. Garrett was an expert woodworker and enjoyed marquetry and wood carving. He enjoyed boating, water skiing and fishing.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in the chapel at Homewood at Plum Creek, 425 Westminster Ave., Hanover, Pa.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Garrett is survived by a son, Mark Garrett of Dover, Del.; a daughter, Darlene Thomas of Taneytown; a sister, Eloise Smith of Anderson, S.C.; and two grandchildren.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun