Photographer Fred Ward—who captured intimate moments at the White House with Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Gerald Ford—died last week, from Alzheimer’s disease, says his daughter, Lolly Ward. He was 81.

“Fred was the smartest photographer in Washington,” says Dennis Brack, a colleague who worked alongside Ward at the Black Star Picture Agency for 40 years. “There have been other smart photographers since he went west, but they have excelled in only one field—Fred had it all together.”

Following the Kennedy assassination in 1963, Ward captured the affecting image of Jacqueline Kennedy returning to Washington with her husband’s blood on her legs. Days later, his image of the grieving first lady with her two young children before her husband’s casket, would appear on the cover of Life Magazine—a photo that Andy Warhol turned into an iconic print of Jacqueline Kennedy.

Portrait of photographer Fred Ward. (Fred Ward—Award Agency)
Portrait of photographer Fred Ward.
Fred Ward—Award Agency

Over five decades, Ward traveled to more than 130 countries on assignment for TIME, Newsweek, Life, and National Geographic.He piloted experimental aircraft and his own helicopter, as well as underwater diving. He photographed pop star icons, including the Beatles’ first American concert.

Ward died at his home in Malibu, Calif. He is survived by Charlotte, his wife of 58 years and their four children.

Rachel Lowry is a writer and contributor for TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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