Harry Reasoner, 68, dies in Conn. hospital TV newsman did 15 seasons of "60 Minutes."

August 07, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

Harry Reasoner, the television reporter and anchor whose dry wit and quiet eloquence graced network newscasts for more than three decades, has died at a Connecticut hospital.

Reasoner, 68, died yesterday of cardio-pulmonary arrest at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Conn., where he was admitted on June 11, the network said. The day after his admission, he underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain.

He and Mike Wallace were the original correspondents on "60 Minutes," CBS' top-rated news magazine, and he retired from the show May 19 after 15 seasons during two stints.

At the time he stepped down as a "60 Minutes" co-editor to become "editor emeritus," he recalled when he was asked by producer Don Hewitt to make a pilot episode for the show.

"I said, 'Sure,' but I also said I didn't think it would fly," he said. "I've been wrong a lot but never so happily wrong. I can't imagine anything I could have done that would have been so rewarding."

Reasoner began his journalism career as a reporter on the now-defunct Minneapolis Times in 1942. He joined CBS News in New York in 1956, working his way up through the ranks as a radio and TV newscaster and commentator. He became known for his light touch with the news and a warm, personal style, and went on to win four Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award.

"I think light is just as much a part of news as heavy," he said in 1969. "What I resent is the implication that merely because you see something funny, you are going to take that attitude toward everything."

Howard Stringer, CBS broadcast group president, said yesterday, "Those of us who were privileged to work with him could only marvel at his extraordinary gift of language and be grateful for the wonderful gifts he shared with us -- humor, wisdom, generosity of spirit and self-effacing charm."

Los Angeles Times television critic Rick Du Brow called Reasoner "a wonderful all-purpose TV journalist. He could write, he could report, he could anchor, he knew the story was more important than he was, and yet he had enduring star quality. And his terse, dry humor could be endearing.

"A lot of people forget that he once was considered a strong prospect to succeed Walter Cronkite as CBS' nightly news anchor. Although he finally became ABC's anchor for a while, his best work was probably in the field, and '60 Minutes' was the perfect vehicle for him."

And Reasoner fully appreciated that vehicle.

"You sometimes get awfully tired of airplanes," Reasoner told the Times in 1981 as he set off to Switzerland for a story. "But being a reporter for '60 Minutes' is the best job in journalism, maybe the best job in the world of any kind."

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