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ANDREW HEYWARD: When Dan Rather joined CBS News as a very young correspondent in 1962, he was not the very youngest correspondent. Charles Kuralt had become the youngest correspondent in 1959 at age 24. Charles and Dan worked together for more than 30 years. Dan?

DAN RATHER:
Good morning. Petie, Wallace. In times of loss, we cling to certainty. So I want to speak this morning of a few things that are certain. First certainty: Charles would've hated this. He would have sat in profound discomfort while listening to his friends and loved ones remember what a terrific guy he was. Charles was not a Tom Sawyer who yearned to eavesdrop on his own funeral. Charles didn't mind the odd compliment here and there, but lavish tributes were not his cup of tea.

I remember three years ago, when he left SUNDAY MORNING, the praise came in from all corners and it could hardly have been more stirring or more heartfelt. Charles bore up under it all because he knew it was important to us, but he didn't like it. Even Andy Rooney managed to say something nice, and Charles, doubtless aware of what an effort that must've been for Andy, squirmed with embarrassment, although the rest of us knew Andy was only being accurate, not nice, and that Charles deserved every golden word that was spoken.

Charles took me aside at one point during one of those celebrations and said, "You know, Dan, pretty soon it's going to be your turn. They're gonna be celebrating your 15th anniversary at EVENING NEWS, and—don't take this personally—but I can tell you right now, I am not going to be there. I've had enough of these things," he said. "Petie and I will be raising a glass to you and Jean about as far away as we can possibly get."

Another certainty: Charles would've been uncomfortable here today because it was Charles who was supposed to speak of others. CBS News has known, in its day, a fair number of poets, novelists, short story writers, several first-rate news writers, and one full-out philosopher, but none of them ever wrote about people as movingly as Charles did.

Like a lot of people, including my friend, Phil Scheffler, I was, frankly, looking forward to being eulogized by Charles, and that would've been a very gratifying experience. It might even have taken some of the sting out of death. I would've felt like a pretty important guy, an American original, a lovable ON THE ROAD eccentric, with the great Charles Kuralt speaking over my bier. You know, maybe Charles was looking forward to that even more than I was.

But here's a third certainty: death and justice are not related. Charles is gone and we are left behind.

And here's the fourth certainty: Charles would've hated this ceremony because the people he cared about, while smiling and, yes, sometimes laughing on the outside, are—and he would know it—so sad.

And so we try to find words to describe our loss because Charles valued words, and when he used words, they always used to make us feel better.

It would take another Charles to write what we feel today We feel baffled that a man who got such a kick out of talking to old people never got old himself We feel lonely without him. We feel angry that he was called away so early. We are grateful that we ever knew him. But those are only labels to paste on feelings too deep for our description.

The other day, I wrote that the best tribute we could pay Charles Kuralt would be to go on the road ourselves from time to time, to look for the best in others and the unexpected in ourselves.

I mean to do that whenever I can, and I hope you do, too. But today I want to pay tribute to Charles Kuralt the SUNDAY MORNING way. I want us to look and to listen the SUNDAY MORNING way. We are, ourselves, a scene of natural beauty, of man's wonder and God's creation. We are a bit of America, like the segments with which Charles used to close his broadcasts—in silence, just letting the audience look and listen.

So let us look around this room at the people Charles loved and the people who loved Charles. Let us see Charles in them, in us and in the silence. Let us listen to memory and hope and love, and let us go on looking and listening.

Thanks for everything, my friend, Charles. God bless you.

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

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Charles Kuralt's People

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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.