Charles Kuralt biographyCharles Bishop Kuralt was born Sept. 10, 1934, in Wilmington, N.C., the first child of Wallace Hamiltion Kuralt Sr. and Ina Bishop Kuralt. He spent his early years on his maternal grandparents' tobacco farm in Onslow County. He had two siblings: Wallace Hamilton Kuralt Jr. and Catherine Kuralt. The family moved several times and settled in Charlotte in the mid-1940s.
Kuralt attended Alexander Graham Junior High School in 1945-47, where he received his first training in journalism in a class taught by Anne Betten and wrote a column, "The Kaleidoscope," for the school's newspaper. At 14, Kuralt began broadcasting baseball and football games for WAYS radio in Charlotte. After his graduation from Central High School in 1951, he spent a summer as a disc jockey at the station. In addition, Kuralt was a prize-winning writer, winning a national Voice of Democracy speech-writing contest.
In fall 1951, Kuralt entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in history and served as editor of The Daily Tar Heel. He also worked for WUNC radio from its inception in 1953. In 1955, Kuralt returned to Charlotte to join the staff of The Charlotte News, where he wrote news and human interest stories and a regular column, "People," for which he won the Ernie Pyle Memorial Award.
In May 1957, Kuralt accepted an offer from CBS to join the New York radio staff as a writer for Douglas Edwards with the news. In 1958, he sought and received a job on the CBS Television News assignment desk. A year later he was named CBS News' Chief Latin American Correspondent, based in Rio de Janeiro. In 1963, he was appointed CBS News' Chief West Coast Correspondent and held that post until 1964, when he transferred to the CBS News headquarters in New York City.
During his career with CBS, which spanned 37 years, Kuralt worked on a variety of radio and television series and projects. He focused, during his early career, on radio news and commentary and television documentaries and special reports,"CBS Reports, Eyewitness to History".
Before Kuralt began his "On the Road" assignment, he reported from many parts of Africa and Asia, from all 23 Latin American nations, and from the Arctic, where he covered the 1967 attempt of the Plaisted Polar Expedition to reach the North Pole. That trip resulted in a CBS News Documentary, "Destination: North Pole," and in a book by Kuralt, "To the Top of the World." He also reported on political events for CBS News from the time of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon campaign.
Kuralt was best-known for his "On the Road" series, which began as a segment on the "CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite" in October 1967. The series carried Kuralt more than a half million miles on repeated visits to all 50 states. The series brought viewers sights of an America they did not see every day, of molasses farmers and sharecroppers to brickmakers and 104-year-old distance runners.
In addition to carrying him across America, the series also resulted in such prestigious broadcasting honors as Peabody Awards and Emmys. The material he gained from his travels provided the background for a number of books, including "Dateline America," based on a radio show of the same name,"On the Road with Charles Kuralt" and his autobiographical "A Life on The Road."
In 1980, after nearly 13 years of "On the Road" episodes, Kuralt ended the series to anchor CBS's "Sunday Morning" show until his retirement in 1994.
Kuralt continued to work in journalism, making a trek across America in 1994-95 to gather material for his book "Charles Kuralt's America." He also kept a full calendar of speaking engagements and appearances for causes he supported. In 1996, he became part owner of WELY, a radio station in Ely, Minn.
In 1997, he returned to CBS as the host of "An American Moment," a short segment three times a week, and also of "I Remember," a CBS cable show.
He died on July 4, 1997, and was buried in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery on the UNC campus.
Kuralt was one of the most beloved TV journalists in our country. There were bigger names: Walter Cronkite was called the most trusted person in America. Edward R. Murrow was a pioneer, a legend. But audiences loved Charles Kuralt.
Kuralt had a soft spot for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He was a member of the Board of Visitors, and he was the host for group after group of students on the set of "Sunday Morning" on CBS.
In addition to the Learning Center, two important tributes to him are in place at UNC:
Voice of America and the Broadcasting Board of Governors created the Charles Kuralt Fellowship in International Broadcasting in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. It gives a recent bachelor's or master's graduate a full-time paid job as a reporter or producer for a year at Voice of America in Washington, D.C. VOA is the largest international broadcasting service of the U.S. government. Each week it airs more than 700 hours of radio and TV programming in 52 languages around the world.
The Charles Kuralt Collection in the Louis Round Wilson Library consists of nearly 250,000 of his papers, manuscripts and other works donated by Petie Kuralt, his widow. The collection opened on Feb. 25, 1999. The collection includes documents and oral histories about Kuralt and his work and a Charles Kuralt exhibit in the lobby of the Southern Historical Collection on the fourth floor of Wilson Library.