Called the "Dean of American church music." He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1946 for "Canticle of the Sun," a cantata.
He studied music and composition with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and was the first composer to receive the Rome Prize.
He departed from past composers who tried to imitate the legends of Central Europe and led a generation of contemporaries in creating a distinctly American sound.
His family was residing in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when he was born.
He taught Maylon Merrill, who became the music director for the great radio comedian Jack Benny.