Ed Cray “Was a Meticulous Craftsman of American Biography”

In my Openness to Creative Destruction, I used Ed Cray’s book on Levi Strauss as the source of my account of how Jacob Davis invented Levi jeans.

(p. B14) Ed Cray, a journalist and educator who explored a broad spectrum of Americana with well-regarded biographies of Woody Guthrie, Chief Justice Earl Warren, the California serial killer Juan Corona, George C. Marshall and the bluejeans maker Levi Strauss, died on Oct. 8 in Palo Alto, Calif.

. . .

He delved into broad subjects, including police misconduct and medical care (“The Big Blue Line” in 1967 and “In Failing Health,” in 1970) and entrepreneurship (“Levi’s: The Story of Levi Strauss & Co.” in 1978 and “Chrome Colossus: General Motors and Its Times” in 1981).

. . .

“Ed was a meticulous craftsman of American biography with a penchant for deep research,” Professor Brinkley said in an email. “What mattered most to Ed was being a judicious judge of the past. There are no false notes in his body of work.”

. . .

Professor Joe Saltzman, a former colleague at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, where Mr. Cray also taught, said in an email, “Although his books were not best-sellers, they always offered solid reporting and new insights into his subjects.”

For the full obituary, see:

Sam Roberts. “Ed Cray, 86, Biographer of American Lore.” The New York Times (Friday, November 1, 2019): B14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Nov. 1, 2019, and has the title “Ed Cray, Biographer of Woody Guthrie and Earl Warren, Dies at 86.”)

The Levi Strauss book that I mention above, is:

Cray, Ed. Levi’s: The “Shrink-to-Fit” Business That Stretched to Cover the World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1978.

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