Biography: Edward R. Murrow

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Edward R. Murrow was perhaps the most famous person to ever come from the Pacific Northwest region of Washington State. Murrow was born in North Carolina, but his family moved to the Blanchard and Edison area in Skagit County when he was a youth. Egbert (real first name) graduated from Edison High School prior to his enrolling at Washington State University and subsequently launching his phenomenal broadcasting career.

After Ed moved away from home, his parents bought a house on 13th Street in Bellingham, WA. (house still standing). Old timers have told me that after the war, during the years of his greatest fame, Murrow would visit Bellingham and chauffeur his parents, Ethel and Roscoe, around town in an automobile.

Personally, in the early 1990s, I began collecting historical radio broadcasts from the WW II years. This research took place long before the days of internet search engines. My material was gleaned directly from extensive study of historical texts, then making contact with potential sources in various countries and then crossing my fingers and hoping for favorable responses.

I discovered early on that many logical sources such as major networks and famous news correspondents of the era did not have copies of even their own pioneering broadcasts. Eventually I was able to supply rare audio tracks to the following: family of the late Edward R.Murrow; several of the then remaining Murrow Boys (including Eric Sevareid, William L. Shirer and Richard C. Hottelet); the BBC; the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library; and the academy award winning film “The English Patient.”

In hindsight, one of the bigger opportunities I overlooked in my life was an offer from Murrow’s immediate family to provide me with several boxes of the famous man’s old recordings that had been stored in the attic at his folk’s house. At the time the offer was made, I was selling my radio station, (KBFW Bellingham) so I passed it off to a local state archive that displayed interest. Nothing ever happened in that regard and I don’t know where the old records ended up. Family member Jeanette Coble, who made the offer to me, has since passed away.

The first night of the blitz on London began September 7, 1940. The recording featured here is, in the opinion of historians, one of Ed’s most effective reports. I had read about the broadcast in history books, but it was not accessible for listening until I identified a copy deep in audio archives that included war time recordings from CBS affiliate KIRO in Seattle. I found out later that even Murrow biographers, who lauded this as a great report, had not heard it in Murrow’s own voice — they were analyzing written transcripts. In 2016, so this broadcast would not once again fade into obscurity, I placed this recording on YouTube.

In those early days of overseas news gathering, a correspondent would send a report back home to the network via shortwave radio. Often there was a delay (international time zones, scheduling, etc.) between when a report was received by a network and when it actually ran. Murrow’s story of the first day of the blitz aired in the U.S. on September 8, 1940, when in fact the air raid on London had taken place the day before.

Prior to his preparing this report, Murrow and two of his colleagues were outside the city, at a haystack near an airdrome, when the blitz unfolded before their eyes. Please note that the static and interference you hear in the recording were typical to overseas shortwave radio broadcasts of the WW II era.

To read about Lorne Greene, a pioneering Canadian network anchorman during WW II and later an actor in the U.S. , please click here.

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Author: Steven Smith

Presently editor and historical writer with Puget Sound Media in Seattle. Former radio broadcaster and radio station owner, 1970-1999. Journalism and speech communications degrees. I enjoy researching articles and online reporting that allows me to meld together words, audio and video. P.S. I appreciate and encourage reader comments and opinions.

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