Charles Kuralt
Charles Bishop Kuralt

(1934-09-10)September 10, 1934
DiedJuly 4, 1997(1997-07-04) (aged 62)
Resting placeOld Chapel Hill Cemetery
Alma materUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Occupation(s)journalist, correspondent, news anchor
Years active1957–1997
EmployerCBS News
Known forOn the Road
Sory Guthery
(m. 1954; div. 1960)
Suzanne "Petie" Baird
(m. 1962⁠–⁠1997)
AwardsEmmy Award

Audie Award
Peabody Award
Grammy Award, Spoken Book
George Polk Award
Golden Plate Award
Paul White Award
Ernie Pyle Award
Television Hall of Fame
Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism

Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award

Charles Bishop Kuralt (September 10, 1934[1] – July 4, 1997) was an American television, newspaper and radio journalist and author.[2][3] 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.[4] In 1996, Kuralt was inducted into Television Hall of Fame of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.[5]

Kuralt's On the Road segments were recognized twice with personal Peabody Awards.[6][7] The first, awarded in 1968, cited those segments as heartwarming and "nostalgic vignettes."[6] In 1975, his award was for his work as a U.S. "bicentennial historian"; his work "capture[d] the individuality of the people, the dynamic growth inherent in the area, and...the rich heritage of this great nation."[7] Kuralt also won an Emmy Award for On the Road in 1978.[5] He shared in a third Peabody awarded to CBS News Sunday Morning in 1979.[8]

Early life

Kuralt was born in Wilmington, North Carolina.[2] His father, Wallace H. Kuralt Sr. was a social worker and his mother was a teacher.[3] In 1945, the family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where his father became Director of Public Welfare in Mecklenburg County.[9][10] Their house off Sharon Road, then 10 miles south of the city, was the only structure in the area.[11][12][13]

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.[4] 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 class of 1951.[12]

He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[2] There, he joined the literary fraternity St. Anthony Hall. He also became editor of The Daily Tar Heel and worked for WUNC radio.[2] He also had a starring role in a radio program called American Adventure: A Study of Man in The New World in the episode titled "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.[10] He graduated from UNC in 1955 with a degree in history.[3][4]


After graduating from UNC, Kuralt worked as a reporter for the Charlotte News.[2] He wrote "Charles Kuralt's People," a column that won an Ernie Pyle Award in 1956.[3][10] He moved to CBS in 1957 as a writer.[2] When he was 25 years old, he became the youngest correspondent in the history of CBS News.[4] He became the first host of the primetime series Eyewitness to History in 1960.[4] He also covered the 1960 presidential election.[3] 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."[10]

In 1961, he became CBS's Chief Latin American Correspondent, covering 23 countries from a base in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil[14][3][4] In 1963, he became the Chief West Coast Correspondent, moving to Los Angeles.[15][14] The next year, he returned to New York City and the CBS News headquarters.[14] Starting in 1961, he did four tours in Vietnam during the war.[3][4][16] 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 "[16]

He also and covered the revolution in the Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo).[3][4][16] 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 documentary To the Top of the World and his book of the same name.[16]

Kuralt was said to have tired of what he considered the excessive rivalry between reporters on the hard news beats.[17] He said, "I didn't like the competitiveness 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."[17]

"On the Road"

Tired of covering war stories, Kuralt proposed to his bosses a new project: "How about no assignments at all? How about three months of rolling down the Great American Highway, just to see what he could see?"[16] When he finally persuaded CBS to let him try out the idea for three months with a three-person crew.[3] It turned into a quarter-century project, with Kuralt logging more than a million miles.[3] "On the Road" became a regular feature on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite in 1967 and ran through 1980.[18][4] 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".[19]

According to Thomas Steinbeck, the older son of John Steinbeck, the inspiration for "On the Road" was Steinbeck's Travels with Charley (whose title 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.

In 2011, Kuralt's format was revived by CBS News, with Steve Hartman taking Kuralt's space. As of 2023, Hartman continues to host the segment weekly on the CBS Evening News.[20]

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.[4] Kuralt left the weekday broadcasts in March 1982, but continued to anchor Sunday Morning. In 1989, he covered the democracy movement in China.[4] From 1990 to 1991, he was an anchor on America Tonight.[4] On April 3, 1994, he retired after 15 years as a host of Sunday Morning, and was replaced by Charles Osgood.[4]

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 documentary 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".[3] 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.[3]







Personal life

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

On August 25, 1954, Kuralt married Jean Sory Guthery, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Val John Guthery of Charlotte, North Carolina.[36] At the time, both Kuralt and Sory were seniors at UNC.[37] They had two daughters, Susan Bowers and Lisa Bowers White.[3][4] The marriage ended in divorce in 1960.

He married Suzanne "Petie" Baird in 1962.[3] They lived in New York City.[4]

Kuralt refused to alter his habits in favor of healthier ones; he ate unhealthy food, drank and smoked. He was once pulled over for driving under the influence.[38]

Late in his life, Kuralt became ill with systemic lupus erythematosus.[4] In 1997, Kuralt was hospitalized and died from heart failure at the age of 62 at New York–Presbyterian Hospital.[4] By request in his will, Kuralt was buried on the UNC grounds in Old Chapel Hill Cemetery.[39] His wife Suzanne died in 1999 and is buried next to him.

After Kuralt's death, questions about his estate led to the public disclosure of his decades-long companionship with a Montana woman named Patricia Shannon. With Shannon, Kuralt had a second, "shadow" family, of which his wife was unaware.[40] Shannon asserted that a house in Montana had been willed to her by Kuralt, a position upheld by the Montana Supreme Court.[41][42][43][44][45] 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.[46] The park was in a low-income area of Reno that had no parks until Shannon promoted her plan. Kuralt mentions Pat Shannon Baker and the building of the park—but not the nature of their relationship—in a book he published in 1990 chronicling his early life and journalistic career.[40][47][48][49][50]


  1. ^ Charles Kuralt, A Life on the Road (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1990), p. 15.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Inventory of the Charles Kuralt Collection, 1935-1997". University Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. March 15, 2008. Archived from the original on March 15, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u "Charles Kuralt, CBS' poet of small-town America, dies at 62". CNN. July 4, 1997. Archived from the original on January 18, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Sexton, Joe (July 5, 1997). "Charles Kuralt, 62, Is Dead. Chronicler of the Country". The New York Times. p. 24. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d "Charles Kuralt". Television Academy. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c "Personal Award: Charles Kuralt for "On the Road"". The Peabody Awards. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  7. ^ a b c "Personal Award: Charles Kuralt for "On the Road to '76"". The Peabody Awards. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  8. ^ a b "CBS News Sunday Morning". The Peabody Awards. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  9. ^ Helms, Ann Doss and Tomlinson, Tommy (September 26, 2011). "Wallace Kuralt's era of sterilization: Mecklenburg's impoverished had few, if any, rights in the '50s and '60s as he oversaw one of the most aggressive efforts to sterilize certain populations". The Charlotte Observer. Archived from the original on March 19, 2012. Retrieved December 10, 2011.((cite news)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ a b c d e Lowry, Raymond (October 10, 1960). "Goings On". The News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina). p. 10. Retrieved May 17, 2022 – via
  11. ^ "Photos: Inside boyhood home of Charles Kuralt". Archived from the original on October 18, 2013. Retrieved July 31, 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  12. ^ a b "Charles Kuralt Called it Home". SouthPark Magazine. February 9, 2011.
  13. ^ "Charles Kuralt's Boyhood Home". SouthPark Magazine. February 9, 2011. Archived from the original on September 18, 2012.
  14. ^ a b c d e "Kuralt Receives Journalism Award". Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  15. ^ "Charles Kuralt Biography - Academy of Achievement". Archived from the original on December 12, 2010. Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Rense, Rip (November 27, 2017). "Charles Kuralt: Hall of Fame Tribute". Television Academy. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  17. ^ a b "Charles Kuralt Interview - page 3 / 5 - Academy of Achievement". February 28, 2008. Archived from the original on December 12, 2010. Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  18. ^ Stevenson, Seth (October 27, 2009). "The quaint pleasures of "On the Road With Charles Kuralt," now on DVD. - By Seth Stevenson - Slate Magazine". Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  19. ^ "John Steinbeck vs Charles Kuralt - Highway History - FHWA". Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  20. ^ "CBS Evening News - On The Road - CBS News". Retrieved August 15, 2023.
  21. ^ Charles Kuralt's Summer. Simon & Schuster. June 1997. ISBN 9780743542685. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  22. ^ a b Charles Kuralt's Spring. Simon & Schuster. March 1997. ISBN 9780743542678. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  23. ^ Charles Kuralt's Christmas. Simon & Schuster. November 1996. ISBN 9780743542661. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  24. ^ a b "SNIPPETS FROM KURALT'S 'PERFECT YEAR IN AMERICA'". Chicago Tribune. November 19, 1999. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  25. ^ "Charles Kuralt's People". Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  26. ^ Leuchtenburg, William E. (November 1993). Dr. Frank: Life with Frank Porter Graham. American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.0700438. ISBN 9780963891501.
  27. ^ a b National Wildlife Refuge System. "Charles Kuralt Trail" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  28. ^ "1996 Audie Awards® - APA (en-US)". Archived from the original on May 5, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  29. ^ Arizona State University (January 29, 2009). "Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication". Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  30. ^ "Paul White Award". Radio Television Digital News Association. Archived from the original on February 25, 2013. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  31. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  32. ^ Salemy, Shirley (June 27, 1993). "1993 Salute to Excellence, Stars of today and tomorrow meet in Glacier" (PDF). Great Falls Tribune.
  33. ^ "1995 National Medals of Arts and Humanities Awards Ceremony |". Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  34. ^ "Binding a new generation to this place". The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. August 30, 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  35. ^ "Kuralt's office". Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  36. ^ "Mrs. Charles Bishop Kuralt". The News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina). September 7, 1954. p. 12. Retrieved May 17, 2022 – via
  37. ^ "Miss Jean Guthery; Charles Kuralt Wed". The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina). August 29, 1954. p. 46. Retrieved May 17, 2022 – via
  38. ^ Charles Kuralt: A Life On The Road | Full Documentary | Biography, approximately the 33 minute mark
  39. ^ Eric Peterson (2006). "Charles Kuralt". Ramble. Fulcrum. ISBN 9781933108087.
  40. ^ a b Williams, Paige (June 1, 1998). "A Double Life on the Road". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 1, 2023.
  41. ^ "In re Estate of Kuralt, 2000 MT 359, 15 P.3d 931". Findlaw. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  42. ^ "In re Estate of Kuralt, 2003 MT 92, 68 P.3d 662". Findlaw. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  43. ^ "In re Estate of Kuralt, 1999 MT 111, 981 P.2d 771". Findlaw. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  44. ^ "Kuralt's Montana estate, not mistress, must pay taxes, court says". Independent Record. Helena, Montana. Associated Press. April 21, 2003. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  45. ^ "Kuralt's Mistress Gets House". CBS News. March 22, 2000. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  46. ^ 39°32′50.1″N 119°47′41.9″W / 39.547250°N 119.794972°W / 39.547250; -119.794972
  47. ^ "CNN Transcript - Larry King Live: Charles Kuralt's Longtime Companion Speaks Out". CNN. February 14, 2001. Archived from the original on February 13, 2011. Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  48. ^ Anez, Bob (June 8, 1999). "Charles Kuralt's secret life". Salon. Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  49. ^ Grizzle, Ralph (July 2, 2001). "Remember good side of Kuralt". USA Today. Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  50. ^ Charles Kuralt, A Life on the Road (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1990), pp. 134-35.
Media offices Preceded byFirst CBS News Sunday Morning anchor January 28, 1979 – April 3, 1994 Succeeded byCharles Osgood