Edward R. Murrow life and biography

Edward R. Murrow picture, image, poster

Edward R. Murrow biography

Date of birth : 1908-04-25
Date of death : 1965-04-27
Birthplace : Greensboro, North Carolina, United States
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-08-31
Credited as : Television and radio journalist, war correspondent, broadcaster

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Murrow, Edward Roscoe, also known as Egbert Roscoe Murrow born April 25, 1908 in Greensboro, North Carolina, United States - died April 27, 1965 in Pawling, New York, United States was an American government official, author, newscaster, and television and radio host who lent integrity and intelligence to broadcast journalism in the 1950s and 1960s.

Egbert Roscoe Murrow was one of three sons born to Roscoe Murrow, a North Carolina farmer, and Ethel Lamb, a homemaker and former schoolteacher. Murrow spent his early years in a log cabin in Polecat Creek, North Carolina, on a 120-acre farm in an area that had not changed in more than a hundred years. His parents were both storytellers, and he and his brothers, Dewey and Lacey, were also blessed with that talent.

In 1912 the Murrows moved to the state of Washington to make a better life for themselves. His father worked at whatever jobs were available, from farmhand to lumberjack. Murrow's brother Dewey described the intense religious and moral tutelage of their mother and father. The guidelines of his upbringing were an integral part of what made Edward R. Murrow so true to the broadcasting industry's highest standards of public service.

Murrow's formal education began in the Blanchard grammar school, near his home in Washington state, a two-room shack in the countryside near Edison, Washington. He started working at the age of twelve as a field hand. He attended Edison High School, and in his senior year he was elected senior class president, president of the student body, and most popular student athlete. During his high school and college years, Murrow spent his summers working in lumber camps in Washington, where he developed both his ability to get along easily with other people and his love of cigarettes. He changed his name to Ed because, he said, "it was safer" and protected him from being teased by his coworkers.

Murrow graduated from Washington State College in Pullman in 1930. He was president of the National Student Federation of America during his senior year at Washington State (1929) and held the position until 1932.

In 1932 he became the assistant director of the Institute of International Education, at that time located in New York City, in charge of the foreign office. He married Janet Huntington Brewster on 28 October 1934, and they had one son.

In September of 1935 Murrow left the institute to become the director of talks and education for the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), a job he held until 1961. As director of the CBS European Bureau in London during World War II, he hired and trained some of the most notable war correspondents. A distinguished correspondent in his own right, he became "the voice of London," a symbol of the fight to overcome the Axis powers.

Murrow returned to the United States in 1946 as a CBS vice president and director of public offices. In 1947 he resigned to return to radio broadcasting. In 1951 he started his television career with the show See It Now, an offshoot of his radio program, Hear It Now. Often controversial, a daring 1954 edition of the program scrutinized Senator Joseph McCarthy and criticized his devastating effect on free speech and freedom of the press. Murrow's other television programs included Person to Person (1953–1959), Small World (1958–1960), and CBS Reports, an acclaimed, sixty-minute series dealing with contemporary issues. One of Murrow's most notable documentaries for CBS Reports was "Harvest of Shame," which vividly portrayed the exploitation of migrant workers in America.

By 1960 Murrow's career in broadcasting exemplified the struggle between the era of autonomous news broadcast personalities and corporate news-gathering and reporting departments.

Murrow used his radio and television broadcasts to revive and popularize many democratic ideas, including free speech, citizen participation, the pursuit of truth, and the sanctification of individual liberties and rights. Recognizing these attributes as well as his popularity, visibility, and abilities, President John F. Kennedy appointed Murrow to head up the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in 1961. Murrow took the job as an acceptable way out of his difficulties with CBS. (In a time when the networks were determined not to be confrontational, Murrow's hard-hitting journalistic style made executives try to reduce his profile.)

Thomas Sorensen, USIA adviser, listed the qualifications for the director of the agency: "Experience in world affairs and knowledge of foreign peoples … should comprehend the 'revolution of rising expectations' throughout the world, and its impact on U.S. foreign policy.…" Fur thermore, the USIA director should be "pragmatic, open-minded, and sensitive to international political currents, without being naïve. Understand the potentialities of propaganda while being aware of its limitations." This is an excellent description of Murrow.

Murrow's appointment to the USIA was controversial. J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), did not like or trust Murrow. The FBI finally turned over the summarized reports they had accumulated on the journalist and let President Kennedy decide whether or not to finalize Murrow's appointment. The political focus of the USIA under the Kennedy administration was directed to so-called country teams and objectives that included regularly drafted country plans and a direct and immediate connection of agency products to radio, television, film, and publications. From the beginning, Murrow had no problem adopting an activist role. He shared Kennedy's view of the world and spent much of his time recommending to the president that the Foreign Service Institute be revamped and expanded. The Institute is the federal government's primary training institution for officers and support personnel of the U.S. foreign affairs community, preparing American diplomats and other professionals to advance U.S. foreign affairs and interests both overseas and in Washington, D.C. In Murrow's time the USIA provided the materials and conducted some of the training. Murrow helped reshape the institute into the organization it is today. Even though he was unsympathetic to the "Ban the Bomb" movement, Murrow, along with his policy people, spearheaded the USIA drive to link nuclear testing with disarmament and to halt the development and spread of nuclear weapons. The project occupied much of his time during his last two years as director.

Murrow, though not excluding the happy possibility of dialogue, accepted the administration's view of the agency job as that of psychological warfare with the Soviets and other hostile forces—of political, not military battles, and words instead of weapons. This stance puzzled many who knew him as a newsman. But having taken on the job, he pursued it vigorously, with what Joseph E. Persico called "puritanical consistency." Therefore, he could easily testify against legislation threatening a cutoff of mail service between the United States and Eastern Europe on the grounds that the flow of information went both ways, or he could urge that "Red China" not be barred from access to American-developed communications satellites.

Murrow's parting words as USIA director were especially meaningful to those who remained in the agency under President Lyndon B. Johnson: "Communications systems are neutral. They have neither conscience nor morality, only a history. They will broadcast truth or falsehood with equal facility." His influence continued long after he left his leadership position with the USIA. McGeorge Bundy believed that Murrow left "a lot of your friends wiser than you found them," and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., once wrote that Murrow was "always the Voice of America."

By the fall of 1963 Murrow had developed lung cancer but had not reduced his activities, although it became obvious he would soon have to stop working. His friend Pat Smithers described Murrow's appearance at a meeting: "There was something a bit shadowy about what had been substance. Physically, not intellectually or mentally." Soon after that, his poor health, as well as the desire to express his own ideas and concerns, persuaded him that he was ready to move back to radio or television. He arranged a meeting with Elmer Lower, the newly appointed president of American Broadcasting Company (ABC) News, but went into the hospital instead. Following his death his body was cremated, and the ashes were scattered in a glen at Glen Arden Farm in Pawling, Dutchess County, New York.

Murrow died almost twenty years to the day of the euphoric gathering in the Scribe bar in a liberated Paris, where he commented to his colleagues "We've shown what radio can do in war. Now let's go home and show what we can do in peace!" During his life he earned nine Emmy Awards and received the Freedom House Award in 1954; was trustee at the Institute of International Education and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; and belonged to the Association of American Correspondents, London, Phi Beta Kappa, and Kappa Sigma. He received numerous honorary degrees from Oberlin College, Hamilton College, Rollins College, and Temple University.

"Broadcasting gave fame and fortune to Mr. Murrow, but it remains in debt to the man," according to Jack Gould. Many of Murrow's biographers initially believed in his persona of perfection, but after their research they discovered his public and private lives to be distinct from one another, and his inner self a mystery. Murrow exemplified what is best in journalism: curiosity, independence, and principles. He remains an inspiration to his fellow craftsmen.

The Murrow Papers are at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. For biographical information, see Alexander Kendrick, Prime-Time: The Life of Edward R. Murrow (1969); Robert Lichello, Edward R. Murrow, Broadcaster of Courage (1971); Robert Smith, Edward R. Murrow: The War Years (1978); David Halberstam, The Powers that Be (1979); A. M. Sperber, Murrow, His Life and Times (1986); and Joseph E. Persico, Edward R. Murrow: An American Original (1988). Murrow was the author of many works, including This Is London (1941); In Search of Light: The Broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow, 1938–1961 (1967); and "Call in Courage: Act on your Knowledge," a speech published in Vital Speeches (1993). An obituary is in the New York Times (28 Apr. 1965).


Family: Original name Egbert Roscoe Murrow; name legally changed; born April 25, 1908, in Greensboro, NC; died April 27, 1965; son of Roscoe C. (a railroad engineer for a logging company) and Ethel (Lamb) Murrow; married Janet Huntington Brewster, 1932; children: Charles Casey. Education: Attended Leland Stanford University and University of Washington, Seattle; Washington State College (now University), B.A., 1930. Military/Wartime Service: U.S. Army Reserve; became first lieutenant.


Honorary degrees include D.Journalism from Temple University, LL.D. from Washington State University, University of North Carolina, Muhlenberg College, Mount Holyoke College, Grinnell College, Oberlin College, Brandeis University, University of Rochester, University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins University, and Colby College, L.H.D. from Hamilton College, and H.H.D. from Rollins College; Freedom House Award, 1954; Emmy Award from Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1956, for "See It Now"; U.S. President's Medal of Freedom, 1964; knight commander of Order of the British Empire, 1965; two George Foster Peabody Awards from School of Journalism at University of Georgia; awards from Overseas Press Club of America; two George Polk Memorial Awards from Long Island University; Dupont Annual Award; National Headliners Award; One World Award; L. S. Weiss Memorial Award; arts and letters award from Air Force Association; awards from Southwest Journalism Forum, School of Journalism at Syracuse University, Ohio State University, and Poor Richard Club.


Compassman and topographer for timber cruisers in northwestern Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska; National Student Federation of America, president, 1929-32; Institute of International Education, New York City, assistant director in charge of foreign offices, 1932-35; Columbia Broadcasting System, New York City, director of talks and education, 1935-37, director of European Bureau, 1937-46, war correspondent, 1939-45, vice-president and director of public affairs, 1945-47, news broadcaster, 1947-61, director, 1949-61; U.S. Information Agency, Washington, DC, director, 1961-64. Host of radio programs "Hear It Now" and "This I Believe" and television programs "Person to Person, " "See It Now, " "Small World, " and "CBS Reports"; lecturer on international relations in the United States and abroad. Secretary of Emergency Commission for the Aid of Displaced German Scholars, 1933-35. Member of board of trustees of Institute of International Education and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and of board of directors of National Institute of Foreign Affairs.


* (Editor) American Field Service Fellowships for French Universities, Institute of International Education, 1933.
* This Is London (edited by Elmer Davis), Simon & Schuster, 1941.
* (Author of preface) Ernestine Carter, editor, Bloody But Unbowed: Pictures of Britain Under Fire, Scribner, 1941 (published in England as Grim Glory; Pictures of Britain Under Fire, Lund, 1941).
* (Editor) This I Believe, Simon & Schuster, Volume I, 1952, Volume II, 1954.
* (Editor with Fred W. Friendly) See It Now, Simon & Schuster, 1955.
* (With others) Watch: The Television Guide to the 1956 Conventions, the Campaign, and the Election; the Personalities, Events, Issues, the Whole Story in Words and Pictures by CBS News Correspondents, Maco Magazine Corp., 1956.
* In Search of Light: The Broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow, 1938-1961 (edited by Edward Bliss, Jr.), Knopf, 1967, abridged edition (foreword by Harold Macmillan), Macmillan, 1968.
* Edward R. Murrow Papers, 1927-1965: A Guide to the Microfilm Edition, Microfilming Corp. of America, 1982.

Contributor to education journals and popular magazines, including Saturday Review of Literature.

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