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|Born||Harry Truman Reasoner
April 17, 1923
Dakota City, Iowa
|Died||August 6, 1991
University of Minnesota
Kathleen Carroll Reasoner (m. 1946; div. 1981)Lois Harriett Weber (m. 1988–91)
Harry Truman Reasoner (April 17, 1923 – August 6, 1991) was an American journalist for ABC and CBS News, known for his inventive use of language as a television commentator, and as a founder of the 60 Minutes program.
Reasoner was born at First Street North in Dakota City, Iowa on April 17, 1923; He and his older sister Esther were children of Eunice (Nicholl) and Harry Ray Reasoner whom she married in 1911.1 Reasoner was taught to read by his parents before entering school, gaining a strong vocabulary from his mother.2
Reasoner attended West High School in Minneapolis. During his time at the school, Reasoner developed his interest for Journalism. One story, authored by Reasoner, entitled "The Wrench of the Week" garnered the attention of the principal who permantely expelled Reasoner but later returned following a plea from fellow student Chet Newby. Reasoner graduated in January 1940 having missed the Class of 1939 graduation ceremony. Before graduating, Reasoner went on to study journalism at Stanford University and the University of Minnesota.3 He served in World War II and then resumed his journalism career with The Minneapolis Times. His novel Tell Me About Women, about a fading marriage, was written partly during his World War II service and was first published in 1946.
After going into radio with CBS in 1948, Reasoner worked for the United States Information Agency in the Philippines. When he returned stateside, he went into television and worked at station KEYD (later KMSP) in Minneapolis. He ran for Minneapolis city council as a Republican in 1949 and garnered 381 votes (4.4 percent).4 Reasoner later joined CBS News in New York, where he eventually hosted a morning news program called Calendar on top of doing commentator and special news narration duties.
Reasoner took part in covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Friday, November 22, 1963. Walter Cronkite and Charles Collingwood had been switching back and forth to report on the incident for about four hours after Cronkite initially broke the news at 1:40 P.M. EST. Reasoner took over the anchor chair after Collingwood tossed it to him at 5:49 p.m. EST, and opened with the repeat of an announcement by Frank Stanton, then president of CBS, which had already been relayed by Collingwood:
|“||Thank you, Charles. As you know, CBS has announced that there will be no commercial announcements and no entertainment programming until President Kennedy's funeral.||”|
He later reported on the arrival of Kennedy's body to Washington, D.C. and provided details regarding Lee Harvey Oswald (who was, at that moment, accused only of killing Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit, but not the president until hours later). Reasoner left the desk when Cronkite returned to anchor CBS Evening News at 6:35 p.m. EST. He reappeared in another studio approximately two hours later, to narrate a special program called "John F. Kennedy — A Man of This Century", where he talked about Kennedy's career and the new President, Lyndon B. Johnson, until announcing the conclusion of CBS' coverage for that day. (Reasoner also anchored the final coverage of the next day, with a CBS News special titled "A Day to Mourn".) 5
Reasoner's next appearance came two days later, Sunday, and as he was at the anchor desk, Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby while being moved in the Dallas City Jail. At that very moment, Roger Mudd was filing a report from Washington, describing the President's funeral arrangements.
|“||Tomorrow there will be a final hour for the public to pay their final respects to the President before the President leaves Capitol Hill for the last time. The last soldier, milit—||”|
At this point, CBS abruptly cut back to Reasoner at the newsroom anchor desk with breaking news.
|“||We are now switching to Dallas where they're about to move Lee Oswald, and where there's a scuffle in the police station.||”|
At the time CBS picked up KRLD's live feed of the city jail basement, Oswald was lying on the floor and Dallas Police were apprehending Ruby. KRLD's reporter on the scene, Bob Huffaker, was heard to say "Oswald has been shot, Oswald has been shot". After the ambulance carrying Oswald sped out of the jail en route to Parkland Hospital, KRLD switched back to CBS in New York where Reasoner replayed the tape from the beginning so the viewers could see Ruby shooting Oswald. Several minutes later, he reported that the Dallas Police had released Ruby's name. (Reasoner was not at the anchor desk when Oswald was declared dead, having been replaced by Cronkite.)
In 1968, Reasoner teamed up with Mike Wallace to begin the 60 Minutes newsmagazine series. On 60 Minutes and elsewhere, he often worked with producer and writer Andy Rooney, who later became a well-known contributor in his own right. In a farewell interview on "60 Minutes" in 2011, Rooney said Reasoner was a great writer in his own right but was lazy, giving Rooney more opportunities to show his writing skills. Rooney and interviewer Morley Safer agreed that Reasoner enjoyed drinking and was "one of the most companionable fellows" they had ever known.
In 1970, Reasoner was hired away from CBS by ABC to become an anchor on the network's newly revamped nightly newscast. At the time of his hire, the network's New York-based broadcast, simply titled ABC News, was anchored by Howard K. Smith and Frank Reynolds, both former colleagues of Reasoner at CBS. Beginning in December of 1970 Reasoner was moved into Reynolds' position (Reynolds thus became the network's chief Washington correspondent) and the newscast became known as ABC Evening News.6
Reasoner anchored the news alongside Smith until 1975, when he took the sole anchor position while Smith moved into a commentary role. The next year, however, ABC decided to pair Reasoner with a new co-anchor— this time, it was former Today Show co-host Barbara Walters, whom ABC had gone to great lengths to hire away from NBC. Walters and Reasoner did not enjoy a close relationship; Reasoner not only did not like sharing the spotlight with a co-anchor but was uncomfortable with Walters' celebrity status.7 It was also widely believed that Reasoner disliked the idea of a woman anchoring the network news, which he denied, saying "I am trying to keep an open mind about it".
After two years of co-anchoring ABC Evening News with Walters, Reasoner departed the network after nearly eight years in June 1978 and returned to CBS, where he resumed his duties on 60 Minutes. Shortly after his departure ABC elected to scrap ABC Evening News altogether and reworked the newscast into World News Tonight.
Reasoner stayed with 60 Minutes until his retirement on May 19, 1991.6
Reasoner was married twice, to Kathleen Carroll Reasoner for 35 years and then to Insurance Executive Lois Harriett Weber in 1988. He had seven children by his first marriage. Reasoner underwent two operations for lung cancer in 1985 and 1987.8 Reasoner died three months after his retirement in 1991 from a blood clot in the brain received from a fall at his home in Westport, Connecticut. He is interred at Union Cemetery in Humboldt.
- Daniel 2007, p. 2.
- Daniel 2007, p. 5-8.
- Daniel 2007, p. 17-18.
- Minneapolis Tribune, May 5, 1949; Council Proceedings, MInnespolis, 1949, official statement of primary election results.
- Severo, Richard (August 7, 1991). "Harry Reasoner, 68, Newscaster Known for His Wry Wit, Is Dead". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved April 8, 2014.
- Oppenheimer, Jerry (May 14, 1990). "A look at TV's first lady". The Milwaukee Journal (Journal Communications).
- Goodman, Mark (August 19, 1991). "Good Night, Harry". People (Time Inc.). Retrieved April 8, 2014.
- Daniel, Douglass K. (2007). Harry Reasoner: A Life in the News. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292782365.
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- Harry Reasoner at the Internet Movie Database
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- Harry Reasoner at Find a Grave
Howard K. Smith and Frank Reynolds
As ABC News
|ABC Evening News anchor
1970 – 1978
with Howard K. Smith 1970 – 1976
with Barbara Walters 1976 – 1978
Frank Reynolds, Max Robinson, and Peter Jennings
as World News Tonight