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NEWS

For immediate use

July 8, 1997 -- No. 463

Life and legacy of Charles Kuralt honored during service at UNC-CH's Memorial Hall

CHAPEL HILL -- The life of alumnus and longtime CBS News correspondent Charles B. Kuralt will be celebrated today (July 8) during a public memorial service at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The service begins at noon in Memorial Hall.

Kuralt, 62, died Friday (July 4) in New York City. He was buried in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery on campus, near the Paul Green Theater, in a private ceremony.

Born in Wilmington and reared in Charlotte, Kuralt studied at the university from 1951 to 1955, where he cultivated his love for journalism and people as editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. He won the Ernest H. Abernethy Award for excellence in student journalism in 1955 and membership in the Orders of the Old Well, Grail and Golden Fleece, all prestigious honorary societies at Carolina.

He had worked for the Charlotte News for two years as a reporter and columnist when he earned the acclaimed Ernie Pyle Memorial Award in 1956. In 1957, he began his long and rewarding career with Columbia Broadcasting System. During his time at CBS, Kuralt served as chief correspondent in Latin America, which took him to all of the Latin American countries, and as foreign correspondent, which took him to Europe, Africa, Asia and the Arctic.

In October 1967, Kuralt started his award-winning “On the Road” segments, a series of vignettes about people living in rural, small-town and out-of-the-way America. In 1979, he became anchorman for “Sunday Morning,” a 90-minute television program now hosted by Charles Osgood. The CBS News program “Sunday Morning,” which Kuralt long hosted, aired a special segment about the North Carolina native Sunday (July 6). Throughout his years in broadcast journalism, Kuralt was highly respected by his peers as a newsman and observer of contemporary culture.

The author of several books, Kuralt earned numerous Emmy and George Foster Peabody awards and a George Polk award for national television reporting. He was honored as “Broadcaster of the Year” by the International Radio and Television Society in 1983. Time magazine described him as “the laureate of the common man.”

Despite Kuralt's journeys throughout the world, part of him always remained in Chapel Hill. A dedicated fund raiser for the UNC-CH School of Social Work, Kuralt frequently spoke to students at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and served as an adviser to both schools.

“The world knew Charles as one of the most respected and trusted newsmen of this generation, a master storyteller and a tour guide to the back roads of our nation,” said UNC-CH Chancellor Michael Hooker. “The university knew him as a stalwart alumnus who never forgot his roots -- whether it meant talking to our budding journalists or giving his time and effort on behalf of the School of Social Work to help promote his late father's profession. He was a kind and generous man who never hesitated to lend his alma mater a hand however and whenever possible. He will be greatly missed.”

Kuralt and his brother, Wallace, created the School of Social Work's first endowed professorship to honor their late father, Wallace Kuralt Sr., who was an alumnus of the school, longtime director of the Mecklenburg County Department of Public Welfare and a social worker for 40 years. In 1987, Kuralt, Charlotte pianist Loonis McGlohon and his Trio and the Durham Symphony Orchestra visited campus to perform “North Carolina is My Home,” a collection of songs and narratives commemorating the state's 400th birthday. Proceeds from the performance helped raise funds for the $300,000 endowment.

During the university's Bicentennial Campaign for Carolina in the early 1990s, Kuralt helped raise $5 million in private money for the School of Social Work's new home at 301 Pittsboro St., constructed with $9.8 million from the 1992 N.C. General Assembly. Consequently, Charles Kuralt was one of three men in whose honor the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building is named.

At the building's dedication on June 23, 1995, N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt praised the honorees, saying of Kuralt: “North Carolina is a better, stronger place because of Charles Kuralt, who has helped build up this school through the fellowship he established in his father's name and through his efforts to generate support for the school across North Carolina and the nation.”

Dr. Richard L. Edwards, dean of the UNC-CH School of Social Work, said that Kuralt had been honorary chairperson of the school's board of advisers since soon after its inception in 1984 and was a member of the policy advisory board of the school's Jordan Institute for Families, launched last year with a $1-million gift from NBA superstar and UNC-CH alumnus Michael Jordan.

Edwards called Kuralt's death “a huge loss for the school of social work. Charles was a very warm, caring individual who was always concerned about people in our society who may not have had as many opportunities as others. He was committed to making life better for those who were less fortunate.”

Kuralt also donated his resources and talents to create “What is Social Work?” a video explaining the profession and promoting the UNC-CH School of Social Work. The tape has been distributed to more than 400 social-service agencies and schools of social work nationwide.

Dr. John B. Turner, dean emeritus of the School of Social Work whose name the school's building also bears, expressed sadness on Kuralt's loss.

“Charles Kuralt was possessed with profound social intelligence and caring, with which he informed and enriched the lives of countless people,” Turner said. “Not only was he a great son of UNC-Chapel Hill and of North Carolina, he was a great American. His many contributions to the school were uniquely Kuralt.”

Kuralt spoke at the 1986 installation of UNC President C.D. Spangler Jr., with whom he grew up in Charlotte, and was a featured speaker at the opening ceremonies for UNC-CH's Bicentennial Observance in Kenan Stadium, sharing the stage with President Bill Clinton in 1993. His remarks at that event air in one of Carolina's half-time spots during regional and national broadcasts of football and basketball games.

Carolina honored Kuralt with a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1972. He was inducted into the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame in 1981, spoke at commencement in 1985 and received an honorary degree in 1991.

Kuralt was a benefactor and friend to the UNC-CH School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he was among the first five journalists named in 1981 to the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame, which the school operates on behalf of the state.

For years, Kuralt allowed journalism students to visit the set of his “Sunday Morning” show at CBS in New York. He seemed equally at home with students in classrooms, one-on-one or in a group walking to Franklin Street for soft drinks, said Dr. Richard Cole, dean of the school. “Charles didn't have any airs about him,” said Cole. “He was down to Earth and also smart as anything. There's not a better role model anywhere than Charles Kuralt. In my opinion, Charles was the most beloved TV broadcaster ever.”

There may have been bigger names in broadcasting, said Cole, “but Charles was liked by people, beloved, in a way that nobody else was. He brought a gleam to people's eyes and smile to their lips. He was a legend in journalism and one of North Carolina's best citizens and ambassadors.”

Kuralt's brother, Wallace, suggests that people wishing to make a memorial contribution do so in Charles' name to the UNC-CH School of Social Work, Campus Box 3550, 301 Pittsboro St., Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3550; telephone, (919) 962-6469.

UNC-CH's Academic Affairs Library will house Kuralt's personal papers. Family members and library officials encourage people to consider sharing items -- letters, stories, photographs or memorabilia -- about the Wilmington native.

“We would like to supplement the collection with materials such as letters or photographs that help tell the story of Charles Kuralt's life,” said Dr. Joseph Hewitt, university librarian.

Items for the Charles Kuralt Collection may be sent to the Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, Campus Box 3908, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3908; telephone, (919) 962-1172.

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