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ANDREW HEYWARD: Linda Mason worked closely with Charles for five years as executive producer of SUNDAY MORNING from 1987 to 1992. Together they took the broadcast to the Soviet Union with Ronald Reagan, to Japan for Emperor Hirohito's funeral, and to Tiananmen Square. Linda?

LINDA MASON:
Charles Kuralt had an insatiable curiosity, which resulted in his knowing a lot about a lot, and he loved to impart that knowledge. One early Sunday morning, as we prepared for that day's broadcast, he told me he'd been up the night before reading the seed catalogs—that's seeds for flowers—looking particularly at daffodils. I love flowers and, in fact, grow daffodils, so his comment got my immediate attention.

"Did you know," he said, "there are over 100 varieties of daffodils?' He had that twinkle he always had when sharing some delicious, obscure tidbit. Of course I didn't, but he did. In fact, he planted many kinds at that Connecticut home. Later I learned that a species of daffodil had been specially bred and named for him. So as you look at the common, garden-variety daffodil, which is known as King Alfred, know there are a few special daffodils growing and multiplying called "Charles Kuralt."

I first came into contact with Charles as a brand-new producer for Walter Cronkite's EVENING NEWS. I had not yet done anything of note when, one day, I was entrusted with an ON THE ROAD report which Charles had just sent in from the field. Every report in those days was assigned a New York producer, and I felt great. I was finally being given an important assignment. After all, ON THE ROAD had become a signature series for the EVENING NEWS.

What I soon realized was, this was a perfect assignment for a new producer. Charles was a producer as well as a correspondent and had covered every angle of the story to perfection, and editor Tommy Micklas worked magic with the film. I was truly a supernumerary.

Years later, when I worked more closely with Charles, I realized that the seeking of perfection evidenced in my first ON THE ROAD experience informed all of his work. In every report, he concentrated on detail, on character, on story and, most importantly, on the words, for his unique fusion of words—in a picture medium—and pictures was his hallmark. Charles will remain one of the greatest writers for television news. He understood that on television, less is more—at least where words are concerned. He knew how to distill a thought or a concept to its barest minimum. Many an early Sunday morning I was treated to Charles's redo of a piece of copy that refocused the perspective ever so slightly and yet gave the item new meaning and clarity.

Charles's spectacular writing came hard. He agonized before taking pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. He was, as I said, a perfectionist and very critical of himself. This was obvious when, one day, he mentioned that he was almost a year late in delivering the final manuscript of his book A Life on the Road. He was thinking about giving back the advance, but his editor said there was enough manuscript in hand to make a book, and that's what the publisher planned. He added, "It will be a mighty short book, however." That fear was enough to get Charles writing at top speed.

Charles was well known for his travels on the road in America. Many forget that he had been one of CBS News' busiest foreign correspondents, from his assignment in Latin America to his weekly EYEWITNESS TO HISTORY, which he reported and anchored from all over the world. I was lucky enough to travel with Charles on several farflung stories and to see how his ability to cut through and distill made glasnost and the attempted Chinese revolution immediately accessible to millions of Americans.

When President Reagan went to Moscow to meet with Premier Gorbachev, we took SUNDAY MORNING to Moscow and then did pieces for the EVENING NEWS, since Dan Rather was originating from Moscow for the week. At that time, it wasn't easy to move around Russia—and certainly not out of Moscow—but we had arranged to film in a neighboring village just outside of Moscow and, we learned later, just outside our allowed boundaries. We enjoyed walking around the village, with Charles snapping pictures of peasant faces. He later shared the photos with me, with captions, and was quite proud of them.

Charles was a reporter's reporter. He understood the power of the small story made big. He could use a detail to tell the big story, and he always concentrated on people and their stories. On that same Russian trip, Charles met and talked with an old Russian dentist, Dr. Nikita Aseyev, who had been a P.O.W. in a German prison camp. For more than 40 years, Dr. Aseyev had been trying to get in touch with the American P. O.W.'s who had been enslaved in the same camp and who he felt had saved his life. Dr. Aseyev came to the very busy CBS headquarters in Moscow, and only Charles saw the potential story. He did an incredible interview in a Moscow park, where Dr. Aseyev drew a plan of the POW camp in the sand with a stick. In this interview, Charles was able to tell the story of World War II, when America and Russia were allies, and then of the Cold War, and then of glasnost. Charles focused on this Russian dentist who had a heroic story to tell. Charles had an incredible ability to celebrate man's achievements. He had perfect pitch for every man.

On a trip a year later, I had occasion to witness, firsthand, Charles's ability to focus on the particular to tell the big story. We brought SUNDAY MORNING to Beijing on the eve of Gorbachev's visit. Again, we went to do SUNDAY MORNING and then to contribute to the EVENING NEWS.

Each day, Charles and I drove through the streets of Beijing, which were teaming with all manner of banners and protesters marching under those banners. Picture this: Charles and I with a driver who spoke only Chinese and a cell phone to call CBS headquarters in Beijing or New York. We were virtually alone on the crowded streets of Beijing. Freedom was palpable in the air. And, once again, Charles saw the whole story of the revolution in the streets—to be specific, on one street corner. He stayed on this corner with a crew and recorded as various groups—from workers. to students to older Chinese citizens—crisscrossed the corner. Profiling them, Charles was able to tell the story of the Chinese revolution.

He felt strongly about freedom—for the world and for himself. He was a truly free spirit, and when he said he was leaving CBS three years ago to finish another book, I felt some day he would be back. And, in fact, this year he had taken a step back, hosting I REMEMBER for CBS Cable. I think some of us hoped this would be the first step toward a renewed involvement with CBS News. Unfortunately, the road ended too soon.

Additional Tributes

Phil Scheffler | Dan Rather | Shad Northshield
Ed Bradley | Walter Cronkite | Bernie Birnbaum
Linda Mason | Missie Rennie | Mike Wallace
Andy Rooney

 

USA Today Editorial
Forgiving Charles Kuralt

The Book
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About The Book
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Nobel Peace Prize
| Remembering | Sir Charles
Timeline
| A Tribute | CBS Transcripts |
Letters To Ken McClure|
David Brinkley on Charles Kuralt
Kuralt's Remarks At Hugh & Julia Morton's 50th Wedding Anniversary

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Charles Kuralt's People

An intellectually stimulating collection of insightful and occasionally poignant commentaries, Charles Kuralt's People is very highly recommended reading for students of the human condition in general, and legions of Charles Kuralt fans in particular. — Midwest Book Review Click for more info.

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About Kenilworth Media
Publishers of the first edition of "Remembering Charles Kuralt," now carried by The Globe Pequot Press, Kenilworth Media is a small, Asheville, North Carolina-based publishing firm committed to advancing the life works of Charles Kuralt.