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Associated Press

Happy Birthday, Edward R. Murrow, Pioneering Broadcast Journalist

April 25, 2010
by findingDulcinea Staff
Reporter during World War II, host of radio and television news shows, and head of the United States Information Agency, Edward R. Murrow was regarded as a journalist of great integrity. As a voice for the minority, he did not hesitate to strike against the powerful who aimed to silence him.

Edward R. Murrow’s Early Days

Egbert Roscoe Murrow was born on April 25, 1908, in Polecat Creek, N.C. His parents were Quaker abolitionists who lived in a log cabin with no power, plumbing or heating, aside from a fire place.

When Egbert was a young boy, the family moved to Washington state, settling north of Seattle. In high school, Murrow, who was now known as “Ed,” joined the debate team, which established his interest in current affairs.

After working as a lumberjack to save money for college, Murrow entered Washington State College in 1926 and majored in speech. As in high school, Murrow was very active in campus organizations, and was elected president of the National Student Federation of America in 1929.

Murrow’s Notable Accomplishments

Murrow began his broadcasting career with CBS in 1935. His first big assignment came two years later when he, along with his handpicked team of journalists (later known as “Murrow’s Boys”), traveled to Europe to report from the front lines of World War II “with a courage and loyalty inspired by Murrow’s own fearlessness,” writes PBS. The journalists reported from rooftops and planes, and participated in more than 20 bombing missions in Berlin.

After his return from the war, CBS asked Murrow to host the show, “See it Now,” a television version of his radio program, “Hear it Now.” Murrow’s blue-collar background inspired him to focus his program on the hardships of the lower and middle classes.

During one episode, Murrow defended a man who had been discharged from the Air Force on charges that he had communist relatives; this made Murrow a target of rabid anti-communist Sen. Joseph McCarthy. The determined journalist defused McCarthy’s animosity by devoting an episode of his show to diminishing the senator’s credibility.

In his closing statements on the show, Murrow declared, “We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason. … We are not descended from fearful men—not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular. … He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’”

The show, broadcast a week before McCarthy was to appear before the Senate, helped turn public opinion against the senator. “Edward R. Murrow may not have scored the first blow against Joseph McCarthy, but he landed a decisive one,” writes Michael Jay Friedman for the State Department. “For that, he always will be linked inextricably with the Wisconsin senator, and remembered by Americans as a champion of liberty.”

Murrow ended his career with CBS in 1961 when he accepted an offer from President Kennedy to assume the position as director of the United States Information Agency. He held this post for three years until a diagnosis of lung cancer forced him to resign.

The Rest of the Story

Murrow died of lung cancer on April 27, 1965, a the age of 57. On hearing of his death, President Johnson called Murrow a “gallant fighter” who had “dedicated his life as a newsman and as a public official to the unrelenting search for truth.”

Murrow earned numerous awards over his 25-year career. In 1964, President Johnson honored Murrow with the Medal of Freedom, and in 1965, Queen Elizabeth made him an Honorable Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Since 1977, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has honored “outstanding contributions to public radio” with the Edward R. Murrow Award. 

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