Nelson Benton Lecture Series

Family and friends of Nelson Benton established this series of lectures by distinguished journalists after Benton, who worked more than 20 years at CBS News, died Feb. 13, 1988. He was 63.

Benton began his broadcasting career at radio station WSOC in Charlotte, N.C., after receiving his degree from UNC in 1949. The next year, he established the first television news department in the Southeast at WBTV in Charlotte. In 1960, he joined CBS News in New York City as an assignment editor and reporter. He worked in Dallas when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and became the New Orleans bureau chief and correspondent for CBS News in 1964. He reported on the civil rights movement in the South and covered the Vietnam War from Saigon, Hue and the Vietnamese countryside. He spent the next decade as a Washington correspondent.

During the early 1970s, he was an anchor on the "CBS Morning News." He covered Watergate and the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. He won an Emmy for a special broadcast about the Watergate tapes. When the country faced an acute shortage of energy resources in the 1970s, he pioneered the energy beat for CBS News.

He was a member of the team of CBS News correspondents who covered the American space program from the days of the Mercury astronauts through the moon landing on July 20, 1969.

Benton was born in Danville, Va. He and his wife Milli had one son, Joe Benton, who now lives in Falls Church, Va., and is a member of the school's Board of Advisers. Milli Benton died in 1994.

After Benton's death, Milli Benton donated his papers to the Southern Historical Collection at UNC. More than 2,700 items — including scripts, notes, appointment books and press packs — are in the collection and open to public viewing in Wilson Library.

The Nelson Benton Lecture Series has featured the following speakers:

  • Gerard Baker, editor-in-chief, Wall Street Journal, (2014) (more info)
  • Helene Cooper, White House correspondent, The New York Times (2012) (video)
  • Hank Klibanoff and Gene Roberts, co-authors of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Race Beat”; Hodding Carter, UNC professor of public policy and former editor of the Delta Democrat Times; Joe Cumming, former Atlanta bureau chief for Newsweek; Moses J. Newson, former executive editor of the Baltimore Afro-American and former reporter at the Tri-State Defender in Memphis, Tenn. (2010 panel discussion) (video)
  • Bill Schneider, senior policy analyst, CNN (2008)
  • Fred Shropshire, news reporter, WGN-TV (2006)
  • Sam Donaldson, ABC News (2004)
  • Randall Pinkston, CBS News correspondent (2004)
  • Charles Moose, former Montgomery Co., Md., police chief (2003)
  • Draggan Mihailovich, "60 Minutes II" (2001)
  • Carol Lin, CNN News (2000)
  • Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent (1997)
  • Bill Plante, CBS White House correspondent (1996)
  • Cokie Roberts, correspondent for ABC News and National Public Radio (1995)
  • Charles Kuralt, former CBS News correspondent and "Sunday Morning" anchor (1994)
  • Walter Cronkite, former CBS News anchor (1992)
  • Dan Rather, CBS News anchor (1991)