The death Friday of William S. Paley should remind Americans of how much they owe this radio and TV pioneer, who founded CBS and set many of the standards for the industry in news and entertainment.
If Paley had followed in his father's footsteps and stayed in the cigar business, Americans might never have loved Lucy, experienced "60 Minutes," witnessed Ed Sullivan's "really big show," or Seen It Now.Paley gave the radio airwaves in the 1930s and 1940s such stars as Will Rogers, Fred Allen, George Burns, Goodman Ace, Jack Benny, Bing Crosy and Frank Sinatra.
His impact on electronic journalism was also great. It was Paley's CBS that assembled many of the best broadcast journalists in the business, including Edward R. Murrow. Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid and Howard K. Smith.
A brilliant executive who had a genius for detecting trends in the popular culture, Paley extended the reach of CBS beyond broadcasting. The company revolutionized the recording industry with the introduction of the long-playing record. Its artists ranged from Leonard Bernstein and Vladimir Horowitz to Billie Holiday and Bruce Springsteen.
The company also moved into filmmaking, publishing, Broadway musicals, and for a time even owned the New York Yankees.
Despite his long hours of work at CBS, Paley became a patron of the arts. He was a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for 53 years. He also was a leading collector of post-Impressionist masterpieces.
Paley once said that he felt lucky for having, as he put it, "stumbled into broadcasting." As the nation looks back on his remarkable life now that it has come to a close, we all can feel grateful for that "stumble," too.