Edward R. Murrow Biography


Birthday: April 25, 1908 (Taurus)

Born In: Guilford County, North Carolina, United States

Edward R. Murrow was one of the most prominent American radio and TV broadcast journalists and war reporters of the 20th century. He was an integral part of the ‘Columbia Broadcasting System’ (CBS), and his broadcasts during World War II made him a household name in America. His responsible journalism brought about the downfall of Joseph McCarthy. He produced the radio program ‘Hear It Now,’ which was later adapted for TV, as ‘See It Now.’ He quit the broadcast industry after disagreements with network executives. He also served as the director of the ‘U.S. Information Agency’ under the John F. Kennedy administration. Unfortunately, his habit of smoking took its toll on his health, and he died of lung cancer in 1965. He is remembered as one of the most influential journalists of his time and one of the pioneers of the TV broadcasting industry.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Edward Roscoe Murrow, Egbert Roscoe Murrow

Died At Age: 57


Spouse/Ex-: Janet Huntington Brewster

father: Roscoe C. Murrow

mother: Ethel F. Lamb Murrow

siblings: Dewey Roscoe Murrow, Lacey Roscoe Murrow, Roscoe Jr

children: Charles Casey Murrow

Born Country: United States

TV Anchors Journalists

Died on: April 27, 1965

place of death: Pawling, New York, United States

U.S. State: North Carolina

Grouping of People: Smoker

Cause of Death: Lung Cancer

Notable Alumni: Washington State University

More Facts

education: Washington State University

awards: Peabody Award
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Presidential Medal of Freedom
George Polk Award

  • 1

    What impact did Edward R. Murrow have on journalism?

    Edward R. Murrow is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in broadcast journalism history. He revolutionized the field by introducing new and innovative techniques, such as on-the-spot reporting and investigative journalism, which set the standard for modern journalism practices.
  • 2

    What role did Edward R. Murrow play during World War II?

    During World War II, Edward R. Murrow served as a war correspondent for CBS News. He gained fame for his broadcasts from London during the Blitz, providing firsthand accounts of the war's impact on civilians and boosting morale among the American public.
  • 3

    How did Edward R. Murrow challenge Senator Joseph McCarthy?

    Edward R. Murrow famously challenged Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist witch hunts through his television program "See It Now." In a series of broadcasts, Murrow exposed McCarthy's tactics and fear-mongering, ultimately contributing to the senator's downfall.
  • 4

    What was the significance of Edward R. Murrow's speech at the 1958 Radio-Television News Directors Association convention?

    Edward R. Murrow's speech at the 1958 RTNDA convention, known as the "wires and lights in a box" speech, criticized the growing emphasis on entertainment over information in television news. His words served as a wake-up call to the industry and highlighted the importance of responsible journalism.
  • 5

    How did Edward R. Murrow's reporting on the plight of migrant farmworkers impact U.S. policy?

    Edward R. Murrow's documentary "Harvest of Shame," which exposed the harsh conditions faced by migrant farmworkers in the United States, played a key role in shaping public opinion and influencing policymakers. The documentary led to reforms in labor laws and increased awareness of the struggles faced by agricultural workers.
Childhood & Early Life
Edward Egbert Roscoe Murrow was born on April 25, 1908, at Polecat Creek, near Greensboro, Guilford County, North Carolina, United States, to Roscoe Conklin Murrow and Ethel F. Murrow.
Edward was of Scottish, English, Irish, and German descent. His parents were Quakers. He was the youngest of the three brothers in the family.
His eldest brother, Roscoe Jr., died a few hours after birth. His two older siblings, Lacey Van Buren and Dewey Joshua were 4 and 2 years older than him, respectively. They lived in a log cabin with no electricity or plumbing, situated on a farm.
When Edward was just 6, he and his family moved to Skagit County in western Washington, just south of the US–Canada border. Edward attended a high school in Edison. He was the president of the student body and proved himself to be a skilled debater. He was also part of the basketball team that won the ‘Skagit County Championship.’
He then attended ‘Washington State University’ (then ‘Washington State College’) in Pullman, while spending his summers working in lumber camps. He majored in speech and was a member of the ‘Kappa Sigma’ fraternity. Edward also participated in college politics.
He was known by his nickname, "Ed," and had changed his name from “Egbert” to “Edward” by his second year in college.
In 1929, Edward delivered a speech at the annual convention of the ‘National Student Federation of America,’ stressing on the need for college students to become more inclined toward national and global affairs. Soon, he became the president of the ‘National Student Association.’ After obtaining his bachelor's degree, he moved to New York.
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Early Career & War Reporting
In 1935, he joined ‘CBS.’ His main job was to scout experts to speak for the radio. In 1937, he was sent to London to manage the network’s European office.
In 1938, when Hitler annexed Austria, Edward turned into a war reporter. He reported how ‘Nazi’ soldiers were marching toward Vienna. He also reported the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Edward's war coverage reached its peak in 1940, when at the Battle of Britain, he reported while watching London being bombed.
When America joined the war, Edward reported from airfields, giving an eye-witness account. He also accompanied the forces on a few bombing missions, in order to describe the happenings in detail. Till then, radio announcers were restricted to playing records and passively reading news reports.
Edward recruited correspondents such as Eric Sevareid, Howard K. Smith, Charles Collingwood, and Richard Hottelet for the ‘CBS’ bureau in London. The group came to be known as "The Murrow Boys."
By the end of the war, Edward became one of the first journalists to get inside the ‘Nazi’ death camp at Buchenwald. He described the piles of corpses he saw and offered a detailed account of how the camp functioned. He was criticized for his graphic reporting, but he stated that it was necessary for people to know about the horrific nature of ‘Nazi’ concentration camps.
TV Career
Following the war, Edward went back to New York and became the ‘CBS’ vice president. He was in charge of programs on news, discussion, and education. He resorted to radio broadcasting in 1947, beginning a nightly program named ‘Edward R. Murrow With the News.’
In 1949, Edward ventured into TV, which was just beginning to become popular as a medium. His weekly radio program named ‘Hear It Now,’ which he had started with Fred W. Friendly, was now adapted for TV and renamed ‘See It Now.’
He attacked Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy and the ‘Red Scare’ that he propagated (the fear of a communist invasion of America), in an episode of ‘See It Now,’ aired on March 9, 1954. Edward featured clips that showed McCarthy making baseless accusations about communists. Edward’s efforts eventually led to McCarthy’s downfall.
Edward also produced other TV programs, such as ‘Person to Person’ (1953–1960). ‘See It Now’ continued till 1958. However, he often had arguments with his seniors at ‘CBS’ and he believed the network authorities were not being responsible in their efforts to educate the public. In October 1958, he delivered a speech in Chicago, where he stated that he believed the general public was mature enough to handle controversial news.
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Before he quit ‘CBS,’ Edward was part of a documentary named ‘Harvest of Shame,’ which highlighted the issues of migrant farm workers. The program gave rise to controversies due to its focus on poverty in America.
Other Works
In 1961, Murrow quit his broadcasting career. Soon, President John F. Kennedy made him the director of the ‘U.S. Information Agency.’
He was part of the film ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ (1956), as a narrator. He also appeared as himself in ‘The Lost Class of '59’ (1959) and ‘Montgomery Speaks His Mind’ (1959). He made his last film appearance in ‘Sink the Bismarck!’ (1960).
He received the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ from President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The following year, the British government awarded Edward an honorary knighthood.
He also received the ‘Albert Einstein Award’ from ‘Brandeis University,’ 15 honorary degrees, nine ‘Overseas Press Club’ awards, the ‘Hillman Award,’ and the ‘Grammy Award’ for the ‘Best Spoken Word Album.’ He was also an officer in the Belgian Order of Leopold and a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor.
He was awarded the ‘Adult Education Award’ by the ‘New School of New York,’ two ‘Headliners Club’ awards, two ‘New York Newspaper Guild’ awards, the ‘National Association of Broadcasters Industry Service Award,’ and the ‘Louis Lyons Award’ by ‘Harvard University.’
Personal Life & Death
On March 12, 1935, Edward got married to Janet Huntington Brewster. On November 6, 194, they had a son, Charles Casey Murrow.
Edward was a heavy smoker. In his later life, he fell sick and resigned from the government. Soon, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had a lung removed. He mostly remained hospitalized until he breathed his last on April 27, 1965, in Pawling, New York. Many dignitaries, including President Lyndon Johnson, paid tribute to him.
The ‘Edward R. Murrow Center of Public Diplomacy’ was set up at the ‘Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’ of ‘Tufts University.’ The center awards fellowships to mid-career professionals researching at ‘Fletcher.’
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His library and some of his belongings can be found in the ‘Murrow Memorial Reading Room.’ Murrow's papers can be found at the ‘Digital Collections and Archives’ at ‘Tufts.’
In 1971 the ‘Radio Television Digital News Association’ (RTNDA) established the ‘Edward R. Murrow Awards,’ to reward excellence in broadcast journalism. Four other awards, also known as the ‘Edward R. Murrow Award,’ were established, including the one presented by the ‘Washington State University,’ his alma mater.
In 1973, the ‘Washington State University’ established the ‘Edward R. Murrow Communications Center’ and the annual ‘Edward R. Murrow Symposium.’
The ‘Department of Communications’ at the university was renamed the ‘Edward R. Murrow School of Communication’ in 1990. In 2008, it became the ‘Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.’
The 1986 ‘HBO’ made-for-cable movie ‘Murrow’ had Daniel J. Travanti playing him.
The 2005 ‘Academy Award’-nominated ‘Good Night, and Good Luck’ had his character played by actor David Strathairn.
Facts About Edward R. Murrow
Murrow was known for his love of jazz music and was a regular patron at jazz clubs in New York City.
Murrow had a pet cocker spaniel named "Buddy" that he adored and often mentioned in his personal correspondence.
Murrow was an avid collector of antique books and rare manuscripts, with a particular interest in historical documents related to journalism.
Despite his serious demeanor on camera, Murrow had a playful sense of humor and was known for his witty remarks among friends and colleagues.
Murrow was a talented amateur painter and enjoyed spending his free time creating landscapes and portraits.

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