The obituary of Ed Clark, which appeared in The Post on Jan. 24, incorrectly reported the history of his marriages. His first marriage, to Garnet Clark, ended in divorce. His second wife, Margaret, died about 1990. His third wife, Joyce, survives him. (Published 01/25/2000)

Ed Clark, 88, whose observant eye, artistic soul and southern geniality helped make him one of the most admired news photographers of the 20th century during a long career on Life magazine, died Jan. 22 at his home in Sarasota, Fla. The cause of death was not reported.

Among the most celebrated of his pictures was the one that spoke for a grieving nation after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The April 1945 photograph depicted Graham Jackson, a Navy bandsman, playing the accordion, his face dissolving in tears, as the hearse carrying Roosevelt went by.

Armed with a Leica, Nikon or Rolleiflex, Mr. Clark spent decades standing discreetly in the background on the stage of world history, capturing vivid and enduring images that linked millions of people with the great events and dominant figures of their times.

He photographed Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at their World War II meeting in Quebec. He showed Harry S. Truman on one of his morning walks through Washington; he portrayed Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Oval Office and soon-to-be President John F. Kennedy at home in Georgetown with his young daughter, Caroline.

Other memorable photographs show a Nebraska wheat farmer, pausing to drink water from a canvas sack; movie stars Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart; the streets of Paris; a German boy on crutches standing amid the devastation of World War II; and German Luftwaffe leader Hermann Goering scowling at the war crimes trials. Mr. Clark "was one of a kind," his wife, Joyce, said last night from their home.

He was born in Nashville and did not like school, she said. Although he had never had a lesson, he bluffed his way into a photographer's job at the Nashville Tennessean newspaper. He was on call round-the-clock, seven days a week, for $40 a month, but "he loved it," she said, and would have hauled about the heavy 8-by-10-inch view camera then in use for nothing.

"He just had a natural talent" for photography, she said. This soon brought him to the attention of Life magazine, perhaps the world's premier outlet for photojournalism. Life made him a stringer in the 1930s. Later the editors wished to bring him on to the staff, but he would have none of New York.

Finally, the magazine decided to base him in his native city, and he was there, his wife said, when the urgent message arrived in 1945 about Roosevelt's death in Warm Springs, Ga. "He drove all night," his wife said.

He arrived in time to join a media swarm maneuvering for position as the hearse approached. Then he heard Jackson's accordion, playing one of Roosevelt's favorite songs, "Goin' Home." He wheeled about and saw the tears streaming down the bandsman's face.

"I thought, 'My God, what a picture,' " Mr. Clark told an interviewer. He snapped a few quick shots with his Leica, hoping that nobody else was doing the same. No one was, and one of Mr. Clark's photos occupied a full page in the next issue of Life.

One ranking lists the photograph among the century's 10 best, his wife said.

"He was very proud of that picture," she said. "He had the eye of an artist . . . [and was] very unobtrusive, and very gentle. People didn't even realize he was there."

After photographing postwar Europe, Mr. Clark was sent by Life to Los Angeles, and then brought to Washington in 1953 to cover the incoming Eisenhower administration.

"He was the photographic voice of Middle America," Time photographer Dirck Halstead told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "He came to his assignments not as a cosmopolitan guy, but as the down-home boy from Tennessee that he was."

The weekly Life magazine had some difficult years in the late 1960s, and Mr. Clark changed careers for a time, becoming a home builder in Washington, his wife said. She said he built houses along MacArthur Boulevard in Washington and in Montgomery County as well.

Later, she said, he took photographic assignments for publications such as Washingtonian and the Ladies Home Journal.

He moved back to Nashville in the early 1990s and then to Sarasota.

His first wife, Garnet, died earlier.

In addition to his wife, of Sarasota, survivors include a son from his first marriage, Tom, of Frederick; a sister, Nellie Dunlap of Nashville; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

CAPTION: Ed Clark holds one of his cameras in a room lined with his photographs at his home in Sarasota, Fla. Clark's best-known photo was that of a grieving Navy musician playing in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt's funeral train.