At his death on July 4, 1997, Charles Kuralt left behind an abundance of letters, scripts, tapes, photographs and other mementos that speak to a life fully lived. Most of the material found a home at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was an obvious and appropriate choice. Kuralt said he spent some of the "finer, freer, more stimulating" years of his life on the UNC campus, and it was the place where he asked, in his final days, to be buried.
The Charles Kuralt Collection is packed away for preservation purposes in acid-free folders and boxes. Open to researchers, it is a vast collection, encompassing more than 60,000 items. And it continues to grow, as the Kuralt family and others donate even more memorabilia to the university’s Manuscripts Department. Poring through the boxes of fan mail, it becomes clear that Kuralt left an indelible impression on the people who watched him on television, people who felt they knew him personally.
But it is hard to capture the life of Charles Kuralt through memorabilia alone. We knew him best through the people and the voices he shared with us along the way, and it seems fitting that those voices from his past should be a part of the way we remember him. So in the spring of 1998, the Kuralt Collection archivists and a group of fund-raisers elected to undertake an oral history that would preserve on tape the memories and impressionsthe voicesof Charles Kuralt's friends, family and colleagues as part of his enduring life story.
As a contributing editor to North Carolina's Our State magazine, I knew about the oral history project and earnestly wanted to be part of it. I had been lucky enough to interview Charles Kuralt, in 1994, and was enthralled by this remarkable man. I volunteered for the job and, partly because of that time I had spent with Kuralt, they gave it to me.
An oral history begins with the tracking down of people. There were the obvious candidatesWallace Kuralt, Charles' brother, who lives in Chapel Hill; friends in Charlotte, where Kuralt attended junior and senior high school and worked for the Charlotte News, one of the city's two daily papers in his day; and colleagues at CBS in New York.
To find others whose lives had intersected with Kuralt's, I reread his six books and sought out some of the people he interviewed on television. I visited with as many people as I could and talked by phone with those too far away or otherwise difficult to reach.
In the end, I talked with nearly 100 people, collecting more than 60 hours of interviews and transcribing 1,200 pages of notes. The tapes and transcripts form the basis of this book.
It is important to note that this is not a biography, but a collection of narratives and anecdotes intended to celebrateand provide some insights into—the life of Charles Kuralt.
The spirit of Remembering Charles Kuralt is best summed up by a line from British playwright J.M. Barrie, who said in 1922: "God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December." Kuralt presented us with beautiful stories and beautiful peopleroses, to help us remember.
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