Douglas Edwards, a World War II radio correspondent who became the nation's first network television anchorman with CBS, died Saturday at his Florida home. He was 73.
Edwards, who spent all but 10 of his 56-year broadcasting career with CBS, died of cancer in Sarasota, Fla., CBS News announced. He retired from the network in April 1988.Forty years earlier, then-CBS President Frank Stanton tapped Edwards to anchor its nationwide TV news broadcast, titled "Douglas Edwards with the News." He held the job for 14 years before surrendering the anchor chair to Walter Cronkite.
The program won a Peabody Award for best television news in 1956, and the show - which began airing coast-to-coast five years earlier - became the world's largest single news medium with 34 millions viewers.
"Because he was a pioneer and achieved so much as a professional, Douglas Edwards is in the pantheon of news broadcasters," said CBS News anchorman Dan Rather.
Don Hewitt, executive producer of "60 Minutes," was an associate director on Edward's nightly newscast.
"Along with Dave Garroway and Ed Sullivan and Jack Webb and other pioneers, Doug ushered in the television era. Whatever is good and right about TV news today, Doug Edwards can claim a lion's share of the credit," Hewitt said.
Edwards already had a decade of experience when he joined CBS News in 1942. He became part of Edward R. Murrow's legendary London radio staff as World War II drew to an end, and served as Paris bureau chief.
After the 1948 presidential conventions, "CBS asked me to go into television, and I did it with some fear and trepidation, not because I was nervous about being on television, I had done quite a bit of it, but radio was the power, and I was pretty young at the time," Edwards recalled later.
He made the transition smoothly, retired colleague Eric Sevareid said Saturday in Washington.
"He was one of the very few who set the standards of objectivity and cool-headedness for the anchor position. He never tried to bend the news. When TV came along, with all its emphasis on personalities, he was never one of those who tried to act the news," said Sevareid.
Edwards was born July 14, 1917, in Ada, Okla. He is survived by his wife, May; three children from a previous marriage, two stepsons, and four grandchildren.
Funeral services will be Wednesday at the Church of the Palms in Sarasota.