Charles Kuralt Biography

American journalist (1934–1997)

Charles Bishop Kuralt (September 10, 1934 – July 4, 1997) was an American television, newspaper and radio journalist and author. He is most widely known for his long career with CBS, first for his "On the Road" segments on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, and later as the first anchor of CBS News Sunday Morning, a position he held for fifteen years. In 1996, Kuralt was inducted into Television Hall of Fame of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Kuralt's On the Road segments were recognized twice with personal Peabody Awards. The first, awarded in 1968, cited those segments as heartwarming and "nostalgic vignettes." In 1975, his award was for his work as a U.S. "bicentennial historian"; his work "capture the individuality of the people, the dynamic growth inherent in the area, and…the rich heritage of this great nation." Kuralt also won an Emmy Award for On the Road in 1978. He shared in a third Peabody awarded to CBS News Sunday Morning in 1979.

Early life

Kuralt was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. His father, Wallace H. Kuralt Sr. was a social worker and his mother was a teacher. In 1945, the family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where his father became Director of Public Welfare in Mecklenburg County. Their house off Sharon Road, then 10 miles south of the city, was the only structure in the area.

As a boy, he won a children's sports writing contest for a local newspaper by writing about a dog that got loose on the field during a baseball game. When he was 14 years old, Kuralt became one of the youngest radio announcers in the country, covering minor-league baseball games and hosting a music show. In 1948, he was named one of four National Voice of Democracy winners at age 14, where he won a $500 scholarship. Later, at Charlotte's Central High School, Kuralt was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" in his graduating cl* of 1951.

He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There, he joined the literary fraternity St. Anthony Hall. He also became editor of The Daily Tar Heel and worked for WUNC radio. He also had a starring role in a radio program called American Adventure: A Study of Man in The New World in the episode *led "Hearth Fire", which aired on August 4, 1955. It is a telling of the advent of TVA's building lakes written by John Ehle and directed by John Clayton. During the summer, he also worked at WBTV in Charlotte. He graduated from UNC in 1955 with a degree in history.


After graduating from UNC, Kuralt worked as a reporter for the Charlotte News. He wrote "Charles Kuralt's People," a column that won an Ernie Pyle Award in 1956. He moved to CBS in 1957 as a writer. When he was 25 years old, he became the youngest correspondent in the history of CBS News. He became the first host of the primetime series Eyewitness to History in 1960. He also covered the 1960 presidential election. Variety said, "Kuralt's a comer. Young, good looking, full of poise and command, deep voiced and yet relaxed and not over-dramatic, he imparts a sense of authority and reliability to his task."

In 1961, he became CBS's Chief Latin American Correspondent, covering 23 countries from a base in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil In 1963, he became the Chief West Coast Correspondent, moving to Los Angeles. The next year, he returned to New York City and the CBS News headquarters. Starting in 1961, he did four tours in Vietnam during the war. Kuralt said, ""Every time I got sent to Vietnam I seemed to get into some terrible situation without really trying too hard. In 1961, we got the first combat footage of that stage of the war. It was before the U.S. was involved with troops in the field, but we went out with the Vietnamese Rangers and got ambushed. Half the company we were with got killed. We were lucky as hell not to get killed "

He also and covered the revolution in the Congo (now Zaire). In 1967, Kuralt and a CBS camera crew spent eight weeks with Ralph Plaisted in his first attempt to reach the North Pole by snowmobile, which resulted in the do*entary To the Top of the World and his book of the same name.

Kuralt was said to have tired of what he considered the excessive rivalry between reporters on the hard news beats. He said, "I didn't like the compe*iveness or the deadline pressure," he told the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, upon his induction into their Hall of Fame. "I was sure that Dick Valeriani of NBC was sneaking around behind my back—and of course, he was!—getting stories that would make me look bad the next day. Even though I covered news for a long time, I was always hoping I could get back to something like my little column on the Charlotte News."

"On the Road"

Tired of covering war stories, Kuralt had an idea. He asked his bosses, “How about no *ignments at all? How about three months of rolling down the Great American Highway, just to see what he could see?" When he finally persuaded CBS to let him try out the idea for three months with a three person crew. It turned into a quarter-century project, with Kuralt logging more than a million miles. "On the Road" became a regular feature on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite in 1967 and ran through 1980. Kuralt hit the road in a motor home (he wore out six before he was through) with a small crew and avoided the interstates in favor of the nation's back roads in search of America's people and their doings. He said, "Interstate highways allow you to drive coast to coast, without seeing anything".

According to Thomas Steinbeck, the older son of John Steinbeck, the inspiration for "On the Road" was Steinbeck's Travels with Charley (whose *le was initially considered as the name of Kuralt's feature). During his career, he won three Peabody Awards and ten Emmy Awards for journalism. He also won a George Polk Awards in 1980 for National Television Reporting.

Since 2011, Kuralt's format was revived by CBS News, with Steve Hartman taking Kuralt's space.

CBS Sunday Morning anchor and subsequent CBS roles

On January 28, 1979, CBS launched CBS News Sunday Morning with Kuralt as host. On October 27, 1980, he was added as host of the weekday broadcasts of CBS' Morning show as well, joined with Diane Sawyer as weekday co-host on September 28, 1981. Kuralt left the weekday broadcasts in March 1982, but continued to anchor Sunday Morning. In 1989, he covered the democracy movement in China. From 1990 to 1991, he was an anchor on America Tonight. On April 3, 1994, he retired after 15 years as a host of Sunday Morning, and was replaced by Charles Osgood.

After CBS

At age 60, Kuralt surprised many by retiring from CBS News. At the time, he was the longest tenured on-air personality in the News Division. However, he hinted that his retirement might not be complete. In 1995, he narrated the TLC do*entary The Revolutionary War. In early 1997, he signed on to host a syndicated, thrice-weekly, ninety-second broadcast, "An American Moment", presenting what CNN called "slices of Americana". Then, Kuralt also agreed to host a CBS cable broadcast show, I Remember, designed as a weekly, hour-long review of significant news from the three previous decades.



  • More Charles Kuralt's American Moments (1999) ISBN:9780743519984
  • Charles Kuralt's Autumn. (1997) ISBN:9780671574376
  • Charles Kuralt's Summer (1997) ISBN:9780743542685
  • Charles Kuralt's Spring (1997) ISBN:9780743542678
  • Charles Kuralt's Christmas (1996) ISBN:9780743542661
  • Charles Kuralt's America (1995) ISBN:9780385485104


  • Charles Kuralt's People (2002) ISBN:978-0967909615
  • Charles Kuralt's America (1995) ISBN:9780385485104
  • Dr. Frank: Life with Frank Porter Graham. with John Ehle (1993) ISBN:9780963891501
  • A Life on the Road (1990) ISBN:9780345484840
  • Southerners: Portrait of People (1986) ISBN:9785551629986
  • North Carolina Is My Home (1986) ISBN:9780887421075
  • On the Road with Charles Kuralt (1985) ISBN:9780449007402
  • Dateline America (1979) ISBN:9780151239573


  • The Winnie-the-Pooh Read Aloud Collection: Volume 1 (1998) ISBN:9780525461111
  • Our Lady of the Freedoms (1998) ISBN:9780743541640
  • Pooh's Audio Library: Winnie-the-Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner; When We Were Very Young; Now We Are Six (1997) ISBN:9780140868128


  • 1998: Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for Winnie the Pooh
  • 1997: Citizen's Award, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (award posthumously)
  • 1997: Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Charles Kuralt's Spring
  • 1996: Audie Award for Nonfiction for Charles Kuralt's America
  • 1996: Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism
  • 1996: Television Hall of Fame, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
  • 1995: Columbia Journalism Award from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
  • 1995: Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award, Silver Baton for reporting on CBS News Sunday Morning
  • 1994: TCA Career Achievement Award, Television Critics *ociation
  • 1994: Paul White Award, Radio Television Digital News *ociation
  • 1993: Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement
  • 1985: Broadcaster of the Year, International Radio & Television Society
  • 1982: Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award, Silver Baton for CBS News Sunday Morning
  • 1980: George Polk Award for national television reporting
  • 1979: George Foster Peabody Award (shared) for CBS News Sunday Morning
  • 1978: Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Broadcast Journalism for On the Road
  • 1975: George Foster Peabody Award (individual) for his work on On the Road to '76
  • 1973: Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award (shared) for "CBS Reports: ...But What If the Dream Comes True?"
  • 1968: George Foster Peabody Award (individual) for On the Road
  • 1956, Ernie Pyle Award from Scripps-Howard for newspaper writing


  • Kuralt received the National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton in 1995.
  • The Charles Kuralt Trail along the Roanoke–Tar–Neuse–Cape Fear Ecosystem in Virginia and North Carolina honors his many On the Road and Sunday Morning stories about nature and wildlife.
  • In 2014, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill used Kuralt's speech from its 1993 Bicentennial Celebration in a television commercial
  • The University of North Carolina's Journalism School displays many of Kuralt's awards and a re-creation of his New York City office
  • Kuralt's papers are archived at Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Personal life

Gravestones for Kuralt and his wife Suzanne at the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery

Kuralt married Jean Sory Guthery in August 25, 1954. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Val John Guthery of Charlotte, North Carolina. Both Kuralt and Sory were seniors at UNC. They had two daughters, Susan Bowers and Lisa Bowers White. The marriage ended in a divorce in 1960.

He married Suzanne "Petie" Baird in 1962. They lived in New York City.

Late in his life, Kuralt became ill with systemic lupus erythematosus. In 1997, Kuralt was hospitalized and died from heart failure at the age of 62 at New York–Presbyterian Hospital. By request in his will, Kuralt was buried on the UNC grounds in Old Chapel Hill Cemetery.

Two years after his death, Kuralt's decades-long companionship with a Montana woman named Patricia Shannon was made public. Kuralt apparently had a second, "shadow" family with Shannon while his wife lived in Manhattan and his daughters from a previous marriage lived on the eastern seaboard. Shannon *erted that the house in Montana had been willed to her, a position upheld by the Montana Supreme Court. According to court testimony, Kuralt met Shannon while doing a story on Pat Baker Park in Reno, Nevada, which Shannon had promoted and volunteered to build in 1968. The park was in a low-income area of Reno that had no parks until Shannon promoted her plan. Kuralt mentions Pat Shannon and the building of the park—but not the nature of their relationship together—in his autobiography.


    External links

    Wikimedia Commons has media related to Charles Kuralt.
    • Ralph Grizzle, Remembering Charles Kuralt. Asheville, North Carolina: Kenilworth Media, 2000. (ISBN:0967909600)
    • Charles Kuralt's People. Asheville, North Carolina: Kenilworth Media, 2005. A collection of his award-winning Charlotte News columns.
    • Appearances on C-SPAN
    • In re Estate of Kuralt, 15 P.3d 931 (2000)