Local News

CBS Newsman Charles Kuralt Dies

Posted July 4, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Memorial and funeral services are scheduled for Tuesday for longtime CBS News correspondent Charles Kuralt. Kuralt will be buried Tuesday morning in a private family ceremony in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, on the university campus where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1955 and returned often to donate his time and talents. The public service is scheduled for noon Tuesday in Memorial Auditorium on the UNC campus.

The Wilmington native died Friday at age 62 of heart failure due to lupus, a chronic auto-immune disease that affects the skin, joints, organs and nervous system.

Colleagues of Kuralt offered a tribute to him on his old program "CBS News Sunday Morning," incorporating clips from many of his reports.

Kuralt, whose father was a social worker in Charlotte for almost three decades, was a longtime fund-raiser for UNC's School of Social Work. His family has asked that expressions of sympathy be made as gifts to the school.

Kuralt joined CBS news in 1957 as a writer, after working as a reporter and columnist for the Charlotte News. The television news operation promoted him to correspondent in 1959 at the age of 24, the youngest ever.

Kuralt's writing skills took him all over the globe handling hard news stories. He was CBS's first bureau chief for Latin America.

Eventually, he told his CBS bosses he was too slow to cover breaking news and wanted to carve out a new niche: wandering the country in a Winnebago searching out colorful characters. He became host of "CBS News Sunday Morning," and his "On the Road" series was a hit with CBS viewers. He retired from the network in 1994, noting he wanted to spend more time writing.

Kuralt told Bill Leslie in a recent interview in Chapel Hill that writing was his first love.

"I never was that good at the craft of TV, but I love to this day sitting down at a typewriter or word processor and trying to craft a good sentence," Kuralt said.

Kuralt won many awards, including the Peabody and 10 Emmys. He also wrote several books: "To the Top of the World," "Dateline America," "On the Road with Charles Kuralt," "Southerners," "North Carolina is My Home," and "A Life on the Road."

More recently, Kuralt crafted similar stories for "American Moment," a syndicated series.

Kuralt described the topics as "cowboy hats and barber poles and other institutions of American life that can be covered in a minute and a half. There is so much that is rich about American life and it is sort of ignored. I want to do manhole covers. Just anything that might make a pretty good story."

Kuralt told Leslie that the most fun he had this year was narrating "Winnie the Pooh" in a Books on Tape series. He was also working on his seventh book. Kuralt said he was a slow writer, but when the words finally came, they struck a deep chord with viewers.

Wallace Kuralt, owner of The Intimate Bookshops based in Chapel Hill, had spoken to his brother Thursday night. The outlook was good, he said. But by Friday morning, the beloved television newsman was gone.

One of the last things Kuralt did before his death was dictate a letter to former UNC President William Friday. The letter said he was feeling fine, but if possible, when the time came he would like to be buried in UNC's old campus cemetery.

The normally festive July 4th holiday instead found Bill Friday at the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery with a sad mission. He was poring over maps to find just the right spot for his longtime friend's final resting place. Friday had been Dean of Students on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus back when Kuralt was editor of the student newspaper.

Come Tuesday, Kuralt's wish will be granted -- he will be buried close to a majestic crepe myrtle tree.