, , United States
|| July 14, 1927
|Died||July 12, 1996
Apr 13, 2019 05:43pm
|Info||PRINCETON, New Jersey (CNN) -- John Chancellor, who made his mark as one of television's first reporters, died Friday at age 68 -- just two days before his birthday. |
He was one of the first news reporters at NBC in the 1950s. Over the next 40 years, he became a fixture on American TV who went from covering his native Chicago to covering some of the world's biggest stories.
Chancellor, who was treated for stomach cancer two years ago, died at his home.
His low-key presence and his way with words during his first decade in television news led NBC to experiment in 1961, putting him in as host of the "Today" show when its original front man, Dave Garroway, retired.
Chancellor later called the experience "awful." "I found myself introducing musical acts at 7:45 in the morning, and that was just too much for me. I wanted to get back to work," he told CNN's Larry King Live in July 1993.
Back in news after 14 months of mornings, Chancellor came up with one of television's more memorable punch lines. At the raucous Republican National Convention that nominated Barry Goldwater, he blocked an aisle while conducting an interview. The convention had police escort him off the floor.
Television viewers watched Chancellor led out of the hall, giving play by play into his microphone: "Here we go down the middle aisle. ... I've been promised bail, ladies and gentlemen, by my office. This is John Chancellor, somewhere in custody."
Versatility a hallmark
He had an amazing career by any standards. A panelist on the 1960 televised debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, Chancellor had interviewed every U.S. president since Harry S. Truman, every British prime minister since Clement Atlee and every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir.
He was in Berlin when the Wall was built in 1961, and he was there when it was torn down in 1989.
Among his posts over the years: correspondent in Moscow, Vienna and Brussels; "Today" show host and national affairs correspondent.
"He was unique," former CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite told CNN's Larry King Live Friday night. "He was a major contributor to making the conversion from print to television, making television as important as it's been as a medium for our time."
Stint at Voice of America
In the mid-1960s, President Lyndon Johnson persuaded Chancellor to run the U.S. government's Voice of America, the radio arm of the U.S. Information Agency. He was the first professional journalist to hold the post, which combined telling the truth with a point of view.
"Nothing that we said at the USIA was ever untrue -- but it was the arrangement of the truthful information that made the point," he once said.
Chancellor returned to his old employer after two years in government, moving onto the "NBC Nightly News." Through the Watergate years and beyond, he moved more and more into talking about the news.
In a medium that combines information and entertainment, Chancellor had a style and a wit that some people found too dry. But even when he retired as a commentator in 1993 after 11 years of editorials and a career spanning 43 years, he still had an air of enthusiasm.
"Writing commentary is marvelous," he told King, "because two or three times a month you get a real physical thrill that you've got a good idea, and that you're really working, and you want to go in there and read it on the air. That's pretty good for 65 years old."
Moderated the fourth Republican presidential primary debate in 1988.