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25 Apr 1908 1
Death:
27 Apr 1965 1
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Full Name:
Edward R Murrow 1
Also known as:
Egbert Roscoe Murrow 1
Birth:
25 Apr 1908 1
Death:
27 Apr 1965 1

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Edward R Murrow

“This . . . is London.” With those trademark words, crackling over the airwaves from a city in the midst of blitzkrieg, Edward R. Murrow began a journalistic career that has had no equal. From the opening days of World War II through his death in 1965, Murrow had an unparalleled influence on broadcast journalism. His voice was universally recognized, and a generation of radio and television newsmen emulated his style. Murrow’s pioneering television documentaries have more than once been credited with changing history, and to this day his name is synonymous with courage and perseverance in the search for truth.

In 1937, Edward R. Murrow was sent by CBS to set up a network of correspondents to report on the gathering storm in Europe. He assembled a group of young reporters whose names soon became household words in wartime America, among whom were William Shirer, Charles Collingwood, Bill Shael, and Howard K. Smith. The group, which came to be known collectively as “Murrow’s Boys,” reported the whole of World War II from the front lines with a courage and loyalty inspired by Murrow’s own fearlessness. During the war Murrow flew in more than twenty bombing missions over Berlin, and along with Bill Shadel was the first Allied correspondent to report the horrors from the Nazi death camps.

Returning to America after the war, Murrow was surprised to find that his overseas reports had made him a star at home. With the advent of television, Murrow was approached to host a weekly program. Along with his associate, Fred Friendly, Murrow had been producing a popular radio show, Hear It Now. The television show was to be called See It Now. Joe Wershba, a reporter who worked closely with Murrow, remembers, “Neither of them knew anything about film making or television. All they knew was they wanted to do stories. Important stories.” Television was in its infancy and Murrow and Friendly had to learn the process of filmmaking and the primitive television equipment on the job.

Murrow’s love of common America led him to seek out stories of ordinary people. He presented their stories in such a way that they often became powerful commentaries on political or social issues. See It Nowconsistently broke new ground in the burgeoning field of television journalism. In 1953, Murrow made the decision to investigate the case of Milo Radulovich. Radulovich had been discharged from the Air Force on the grounds that his mother and sister were communist sympathizers. The program outlined the elements of the case, casting doubt on the Air Force’s decision, and within a short while, Milo Radulovich had been reinstated. This one edition of See It Now marked a change in the face of American journalism and a new age in American politics.

Soon after the Milo Radulovich program aired, it was learned that Senator Joseph McCarthy was preparing an attack on Murrow. As it happened, Murrow himself had been collecting material about McCarthy and his Senate Investigating Committee for several years, and he began assembling the program. Broadcast on March 9, 1954, the program, composed almost entirely of McCarthy’s own words and pictures, was a damning portrait of a fanatic. McCarthy demanded a chance to respond, but his rebuttal, in which he referred to Murrow as “the leader of the jackal pack,” only sealed his fate. The combination of the program’s timing and its persuasive power broke the Senator’s hold over the nation. The entire fiasco, however, caused a rift with CBS, and they decided to discontinue See It Now.

By 1961 tensions had become irreparable between Murrow and CBS and he accepted an appointment from President Kennedy as the head of the United States Information Agency. He was only to have the job for three years before being diagnosed with lung cancer. In 1964 Murrow was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 1965 died on his farm in New York. Perhaps more than any reporter before or since, Murrow captured the trust and belief of a nation and returned that trust with honesty and courage. His belief in journalism as an active part of the political process and a necessary tool within democracy has forever altered the politics and everyday life of the American people.

Edward R. Murrow, Broadcaster And Ex-Chief of U.S.I.A., Dies

Edward R. Murrow, whose independence and incisive reporting brought heightened journalistic stature to radio and television, died yesterday at his home in Pawling, N. Y., at the age of 57.

The former head of the United States Information Agency had been battling cancer since October, 1963. He had been in and out of the hospital ever since, and death came three weeks after he was discharged from New York Hospital for the last time.

The ever-present cigarette (he smoked 60 to 70 a day), the matter-of-fact baritone voice and the high-domed, worried, lopsided face were the trademarks of the radio reporter who became internationally famous during World War II with broadcasts that started, "This. . .is London."

Later, on television, his series of news documentaries, "See It Now," on the Columbia Broadcasting System from 1951 to 1958, set the standard for all television documentaries on all networks.

President Johnson, on learning of Mr. Murrow's death, said that all Americans "feel a sense of loss in the death of Edward R. Murrow."

He was, the President said, a "gallant fighter" who had "dedicated his life as a newsman and as a public official to the unrelenting search for truth."

He is survived by his widow, the former Janet Huntington Brewster; a son, Charles Casey Murrow, a freshman at Yale University; and two brothers, L. V. Murrow of Washington and Dewey Murrow of Spokane, Wash.

A funeral service will be held on Friday at 2 P.M. at St. James Episcopal Church, 865 Madison Avenue, between 71st and 72d Streets. Burial is to be announced.

In many years of receiving honors and tributes, the most recent was conferred on Mr. Murrow on March 5, 1965, by Queen Elizabeth II, who named him an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

On September, 14, 1964, President Johnson awarded him the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor a President can confer on an American citizen.

Mr. Murrow's career with the Columbia Broadcasting Company spanned 25 years. It ended in January, 1961, when President Kennedy named him head of the United States Information Agency.

In October, 1963, a malignant tumor made the removal of his left lung necessary, and three months later he resigned as head of the agency. Last November, Mr. Murrow again underwent surgery.

Brought Controversy Into Homes

Mr. Murrow achieved international distinction in broadcasting, first as a radio correspondent reporting from London in World War II and then as a pioneer television journalist opening the home screen to the stimulus of controversy. No other figure in broadcast news left such a strong stamp on both media.

In an industry often given to rule by committee, Mr. Murrow was always recognized as an individual, whether in the front lines of the war, in the executive conferences of a network or, in what he enjoyed most, in planning his next story. His independence was reflected in doing what he thought had to be done on the air and worrying later about the repercussions among sponsors, viewers and individual stations. The fruits of his determination are shared today by newsmen at all networks; they enjoy a freedom and latitude not yet won by others working in the medium.

Mr. Murrow as a realist about fame. He could not walk a block in New York without pedestrians turning for a look or someone trying to strike up a conversation. But in the context of television he knew the value of adulation. "It can get a lot of things done," he once remarked. That was his concern.

In the last war, Mr. Murrow conveyed the facts with a compelling precision. But he went beyond the reporting of the facts. By describing what he saw in visual detail, he sought to convey the moods and feelings of war.

Had a London street just been bombed out? The young correspondent was soon there in helmet, gray flannel trousers and sport coat, quietly describing everything he saw against the urgent sound patterns of rescue operations.

Or he would be in a plane on a combat mission, broadcasting live on the return leg and describing the bombing he had watched as "orchestrated hell."

He flew 25 missions in the war, despite the opposition of top executives of the Columbia Broadcasting System in New York, who regarded him as too valuable to be so regularly risked. In the endless German air raids on London, his office was bombed out three times but he escaped injury.

Mr. Murrow, never fevered or high-blown, had the gift of dramatizing whatever he reported. He did so by understatement and by a calm, terse, highly descriptive radio style. Sometimes there was a sort of metallic poetry in his words.

'Blood on the Panes'

In one memorable broadcast he said that as he "walked home at 7 in the morning, the windows in the West End were red with reflected fire, and the raindrops were like blood on the panes."

For a dozen years, as radio's highest paid newscaster, he was known by voice alone to millions of his countrymen. "This. . .is London," was his matter-of-fact salutation, delivered in a baritone voice tinged with an echo of doom. Later it was, "This. . .is the news."

Then television added to the distinctive voice an equally distinctive face, with high-doomed forehead and deep-set, serious eyes. Mr. Murrow's casual television manner was superimposed on a quite obvious native tension.

As the armchair interviewer on "Person to Person," Mr. Murrow carried out a gentlemanly electronic invasion of the homes of scores of celebrities in the nineteen-fifties from Sophie Tucker through the evangelist Billy Graham.

The darkly handsome Mr. Murrow, his brow knotted and two fingers holding his ever-present cigarette sat in the studio facing a greatly magnified television image of his subjects at home. He would make what one writer called "urbane small talk" with them, generously admiring their children and perhaps inquiring exactly where that handsome vase on the side table had been acquired. It was not momentous, but it was interesting.

Series of Documentaries

From 1951 to 1958 Mr. Murrow also did a series of news documentaries under the title "See It Now." In the 1953-54 season the telecast studied the various aspects of the impact of the emotional and political phenomenon known as "McCarthyism."

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin, was then conducting his crusade against alleged Communist influence. Some regarded it as a hard, honest search for subversives by a zealous patriot; others saw it as a demagogic opportunism, the exploitation of a real issue for the purpose of gaining political influence by intimidation.

The debate over Senator McCarthy was supercharged with emotion and fervent belief. Since commercial television thrives by giving little offense, the medium had given the matter gingerly treatment.

Mr. Murrow and his long-time co-editor, Fred W. Friendly, broke this pattern decisively on Tuesday evening, March 9, 1954. Using film clips that showed the Senator to no good advantage, the two men offered a provocative examination of the man and his methods.

The program, many thought, had a devastating effect. "McCarthyism" did lose public force in succeeding months. "The timing was right and the instrument powerful," Mr. Murrow said of the telecast later.

Decided to Go Ahead

Jack Gould, television critic of The New York Times, wrote that "Mr. Murrow decided to go ahead with the program at a time when passions in the broadcasting industry were running wild on the issue of Communist sympathizers and dupes. It was the autonomy of the Murrow- Friendly operation, often the source of internal controversy within C.B.S., that got the vital show on the air."

That autonomy was a singular thing in network broadcasting. It was based on Mr. Murrow's immense prestige, initially gained when he became one of the first radio war correspondents and built a superb news staff for C.B.S. in Europe.

Mr. Murrow, one writer said, "has achieved a position at C.B.S. that is outside, and basically antithetical to, the corporate structure of authority" and he thereby enjoyed a large measure of "freedom from authority of all kinds." He ran his own news island within the network for many years.

"See It Now" employed five full-time camera crews and they went anywhere in the world. A sponsor paid $57,000 a week for the show, but Mr. Murrow did not limit himself to that if he thought a better show could be done for more. The network paid the difference.

"They come to me, the vice presidents, and say, 'Look, there's so much going out of this spout and only so much coming in.' And I say, 'If that's the way you want to do it, you'd better get yourselves another boy,'" Mr. Murrow once said.

Reduction in Authority

When "See It Now" became "C.B.S. Reports" in 1958-59, the network diffused the responsibility for documentary telecasts and Mr. Murrow's authority was reduced. "He was blocked," one friend wrote, "in his raging desire to get the network he loved onto new paths of glory."

On "Small World," from the fall of 1958 to 1960, he brought top world figures together by remote telecasting and moderated their continent-spanning discussions. But it was known that he was not very happy at the network then.

Egbert Roscoe Murrow was born on April 25, 1908, at Polecat Creek, N.C., a "mixture of English, Scotch, Irish and German" descent. He changed his first name to Edward in his second year at college.

His father, a tenant farmer, moved to Blanchard, Wash., where his son grew up in the great Northwest and worked on a survey gang in the timberlands during summer vacations.

In 1930 he graduated from Washington State College with a Phi Beta Kappa key. He became president of the National Student Federation that year, a job that paid $25 a week with a basement office in New York.

In 1932 he became assistant director of the Institute of International Education. He met Janet Huntington Brewster, a Mount Holyoke graduate, on a train that year and two years later they were married in the bride's hometown, Middletown, Conn.

In 1935, Mr. Murrow was employed by C.B.S. as director of talks and education. Part of his work was to address important groups on the potential of radio as a medium of education.

He was in New Orleans in 1937, attending a meeting of the National Education Association, when he received an unexpected call from headquarters asking if he would go to Europe.

His answer--"yes"--was the decisive turn of his career. He later said that it had led to his having "a front row seat for some of the greatest news events of history."

The young man, then 29, became the network's one-man staff in Europe, a pleasant life. He arranged cultural programs and interviewed leaders. Though his office was in London, he traveled extensively, typically visiting Rome for a week to arrange a Vatican choir broadcast.

As war began to seem inevitable he hired William L. Shirer, a newspaper man, to cover the Continent. Both he and Mr. Shirer were arranging musical broadcasts when Hitler marched into Austria.

Mr. Murrow flew to Berlin and chartered a Lufthansa transport to Vienna for $1,000. He rode a streetcar into the city in time to watch the arrival of goose-stepping German troops.

For 10 days he was allowed to broadcast, and he described the nation's swift transition to a subject state. Life changed drastically for the young newsman. At home, millions hung on his and Shirer's words.

He Hired the Staff

As news chief for C.B.S. in Europe he hired the men who were to become the network's famous roster of war correspondents--among them Eric Sevareid, Charles Collingwood, Howard K. Smith, Richard Hottelet, Cecil Brown and Larry LeSueur.

"I'm hiring reporters, not announcers," Mr. Murrow told "the shop" (as he usually called New York headquarters) when C.B.S. executives complained that he was hiring men who sounded "terrible" on the air. Their on-the-scene reports reached into farm and city homes from New England to the Pacific states, bringing the realities of war close.

One former staff member recalled the instruction Mr. Murrow gave to his newsmen.

The reporter must never sound excited even if bombs are falling outside, Mr. Morrow said.

Rather, the reporter should imagine that he has just returned to his hometown and that the local editor has asked him to dinner with, for example, a banker and a professor.

"After dinner," Mr. Murrow counseled, "your host asks you 'Well, what was it like?' As you talk, the maid is passing the coffee and her boyfriend, a truck driver, is waiting for her in the kitchen and listening. You are supposed to describe things in terms that make sense to the truck driver without insulting the intelligence of the professor."

Mr. Murrow's wartime broadcasts from Britain, North Africa and finally the Continent gripped listeners by their firm, spare authority; nicely timed pauses; and Mr. Murrow's calm, grave delivery. One observer wrote that his voice always "conveyed the impression that he knows the worst."

He was the first allied correspondent inside the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald. Near 300 bodies, he saw a mound of men's, women's and children's shoes.

"I regarded that broadcast as a failure," he said. "I could have described three pairs of those shoes--but hundreds of them! I couldn't. The tragedy of it simply overwhelmed me."

Returning to the United States in 1946 after nine years overseas, he became a vice president of C.B.S. in news operations. He soon found executive tasks--in and out baskets, memos, conferences and the rest--wearisome. He was away from the microphone for 18 months. "I wanted to be a reporter again because I needed the dignity and satisfaction of being a reporter," he said.

On Sept. 29, the former war correspondent went on the air with his evening radio report, "Edward R. Murrow With the News." It was carried by 125 network stations to an audience of several million people nightly except weekends for 13 years.

Unlike most news commentators, Mr. Murrow did not allow his sponsor to break into the news with a middle commercial. When he had finished giving the news and doing what he called the "end piece"--the graceful essays that caused him to be regarded as "the social philosopher of radio correspondents"--the closing commercial would be read. To hold the audience, Mr. Murrow would then come back with a brief "Word for Today," usually a quotation appropriate to the news that had gone before.

His sign-off on both radio and television was a crisp "Good night, and good luck."

By 1949 Mr. Murrow was earning $112,000 a year, which jumped to about $240,000 when he became the only major radio news personality to make a full successful switch to television. "Hear It Now," the radio historical documentary series he started in 1948, also made the transition to television, becoming "See It Now," which ran for seven years.

Mr. Murrow and his wife occupied a 10th-floor apartment at 580 Park Avenue and a log house in Pawling, N.Y., with acres thick with pheasant and ducks, a trout stream and 9 holes of golf nearby.

Off-camera Mr. Murrow was a convivial companion, given to a whisky sour at lunch, a relish of journalistic shoptalk and amusement and exasperation over the ways of the television business. He appreciated humor if it had style and from years on the air instinctively leaned to the short sentence. On hazardous missions overseas he was usually the coolest passenger.

If Mr. Murrow had one private concern about his professional life it was that he might slip into the role of the television news prima donna reading the words of some anonymous rewrite man.

An often chaotic schedule necessitated some measure of assistance in script preparation, but he felt it was his obligation to be in the field more often than not. His restlessness was always in evidence.

Won Four Peabodys

Mr. Murrow won the Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting in 1943, 1949, 1951 and 1954. William S. Paley, then president of C.B.S., called him "a man fitted for his time and task-- a student, a philosopher, at heart a poet of mankind and, therefore, a great reporter."

Mr. Murrow became the nation's chief tactician in the propaganda war when President Kennedy chose him as director of the United States Information Agency in January, 1961.

The appointment ended a 25-year association with C.B.S.--he had been a member of its board of directors from 1947 to 1956--and removed Mr. Murrow from the domestic broadcasting scene. His salary was $21,000 a year.

From Washington, he directed the output of prodigious amounts of news and propaganda, sending the nation's message in manifold forms to all the nations of the earth. He emphasized plain speaking and straightforward reporting in 789 weekly hours of broadcasting and in the daily 10,000-word wireless file of news to newspapers in 100 cities overseas.

Professional Emphasis

Mr. Murrow aimed at putting a more professional emphasis on Voice of America broadcasts, with shorter, crisper reports. Because he believed that explained verity was more persuasive than sheer propaganda, he told agency writers to report the facts in perspective, the bad as well as the good.

He defended the agency's policy of distributing news of racial flareups in this country, saying such events could not be kept a secret and arguing that there was no choice but to present the facts with balanced interpretation.

"We cannot make good news out of bad practice," he said with typical pith when Senators criticized his staff for not depicting things as generally rosy.

At one point, Murrow the reporter came into a singular conflict with Murrow the propagandist. Before joining the agency, he had narrated the telecast "Harvest of Shame," a chilling documentary on the exploitation of migrant farm laborers in the United States.

The British Broadcasting Corporation bought the film from C.B.S. In an unusual intervention by a Government official, Mr. Murrow telephoned the B.B.C. and asked that the film not be used.

The B.B.C. announced that it had bought the film in good faith and added, with what must have seemed stunning irrelevancy to Mr. Murrow, that it had "the greatest faith in Murrow," meaning the reporter.

As the nation's best-known chain smoker--he smoked 60 to 70 cigarettes a day--Mr. Murrow once sat through a half hour televised round-table discussion without lighting a single cigarette. A reporter called the U.S.I.A. to see if he had quit smoking. "His ashtrays are still full," he was assured:

Mr. Murrow was frequently mentioned in 1962 as a possible Democratic candidate for the United States Senate, but he said that he had never "had a horizon of more than 90 days."

In a Congressional hearing in 1962, Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri called Mr. Murrow's estimate of the cost for use of communications satellites by the U.S.I.A. "obviously ridiculous." Mr. Murrow replied calmly, "I respectfully suggest that the Senator's estimates have no claim to any higher validity."

Leaders Offer Tributes

Besides President Johnson's tribute to Mr. Murrow, there were a number of others.

Senator Jacob K. Javits, Republican of New York, called the Senate's attention to Mr. Murrow's passing, and noted that he had lost a longtime friend who had "a passion for truth."

Adlai E. Stevenson, United States representative at the United Nations, said that "few voices in my generation were better known. He brought into the homes of millions many of the great events of our time. Ed Murrow served the cause of truth gallantly, even as he served his fellow countrymen and his government."

Mayor Wagner said that Mr. Murrow had "served his nation and the cause of freedom throughout the world with brilliance and devotion. I was honored to count him among my friends."

Mr. Paley, now chairman of the board of C.B.S. said that the newscaster was one of the nation's "most dedicated and eloquent spokesmen."

The two other television networks also issued statements.

The National Broadcasting Company said "his accomplishments as a reporter, his courageous devotion to duty so often at such great personal risk and his loyalty to his ideals can never be forgotten by his friends, his colleagues and his associates and his competitors."

Leonard H. Goldenson, president of American Broadcasting-Paramount Theaters, Inc., stated, "The Murrow imprint on electronic journalism is indelible and will last as long as the medium itself."

Britain Mourns a Friend

Special to The New York Times

LONDON, April 27--Edward R. Murrow's death was mourned tonight in the country whose story he told in her darkest hour.

An official statement from 10 Downing Street called him "a unique friend of this country." A spokesman for Prime Minister Harold Wilson issued a lengthy and laudatory comment in Mr. Wilson's absence on a trip to Italy.

"Successive British governments," the spokesman said, "have reason to be grateful to him for his presentation of the nation's story to those who found it difficult to understand that a tiny island could be so important to the future history of the world."

Tonight, the British Broadcasting Corporation suspended its scheduled programs for half an hour to do a special program on Mr. Murrow. It was arranged by the B.B.C.'s principal news commentator, Richard Dimbleby.

"He told our story in the United States," Mr. Dimbleby said. He and the program suggested that as much an American as he was, Mr. Murrow had a special relationship with the people of Britain.

"He died a great figure in the United States--and a much loved one here," Mr. Dimbleby said.

The program showed excerpts of the famous Murrow duel with Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and spoke of his courage during that period. It also showed Mr. Murrow in a more recent television interview recorded by the B.B.C. in Britain. In the course of it Mr. Murrow said:

"I left all of my youth and much of my heart here."

The statement issued tonight from 10 Downing Street was as follows:

"The friends of Ed Murrow are to be found in all walks of British life. They will remember a remarkable man who was a unique friend of this country. He was an American who identified himself with Britain when our fortunes were at their lowest and he understood with great clarity the power of the medium of communication that he served.

"Successive British governments have reason to be grateful to him for his presentation of the nation's story to those who found it difficult to understand that a tiny island could be so important to the future history of the world.

"He reported on the blitz and our struggle to recover from the succession of bitter blows in the early forties. He saw our plight and he shared it with us--staying in London through the most devastating of raids. And he remained a friend of Britain in the difficult postwar years.

"When he was made a Knight of the British Empire all too short a time ago it was only a formal recognition of the fact that he had been for many years an honorary Briton."

 

 

 

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