Charles Osgood, the witty CBS News journalist who shepherded “CBS Sunday Morning” for more than two decades — a longer tenure than the show’s original host, Charles Kuralt — died Tuesday at 91 years of age after living for a period of time with dementia, according to CBS News.
He also hosted a durable radio-news segment, “The Osgood File,” between 1971 and 2017. The audio vignettes were heard four times each weekday morning on various stations across the U.S., and Osgood would sometimes analyze a news event, and, in other moments, provide rhyming commentary on the latest headlines. He would sometimes bid listeners farewell by telling them: “I’ll see you on the radio.”
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“Short words, short sentences, short paragraphs,” Osgood was known to say. “There’s nothing that can’t be improved by making it shorter and better.”
He spent 45 years at CBS News before retiring in 2016. During his tenure, “Sunday Morning” reached some of its highest ratings levels in three decades, and earned the Daytime Emmy as Outstanding Morning Program on three different occasions.
“To say there’s no one like Charles Osgood is an understatement,” said Rand Morrison, the longtime executive producer of “Sunday Morning” in remarks given to CBS News. “He embodied the heart and soul of ‘Sunday Morning.’ His signature bow tie, his poetry … just his presence was special for the audience, and for those of us who worked with him.”
Charles Osgood Wood III was born January 8, 1933, in New York City. ) He was raised in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New Jersey, and spent his early years taking piano lessons, delivering newspapers, and listening to the radio. When he attended Fordham University in the 1950s, he spent hours at the campus radio station, WFUV, where he became chief announcer and launched his own program featuring his chatter and piano stylings, He would graduate in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in economics.
Osgood got his start as a classical music DJ at WGMS in Washington, D.C. He soon decided to join the U.S. Army in order to take the position of band announcer. He would collaborate with musician and band arranger John Cacavas for years. The two wrote the lyrics for “Gallant Men,” a Top 40 hit in December 1966.
Osgood left the Army in 1958 and returned to WGMS before being tapped as general manager to help start the nation’s first pay cable channel, WHCT, in Hartford, CT. The venture didn’t fare well and in1963 Osgood took an on-air position at ABC Radio in New York. He spent four years as a general assignment reporter, and contributed to the “Flair Report,” where he began rhyming pieces and reading them on air.
Osgood in 1967 became an anchor-reporter for WCBS NewsRadio 88 in New York, where he anchored the first morning drive shift when the station became an all-news outlet. He would eventually make his way to CBS News, where he launched “Osgood File” for radio.
During his time at CBS News, Osgood interviewed people such as Keith Haring, Julia Child. Andrew Wyeth, Sting and Louise Nevelson. But he also enjoyed many interesting activities outside the newsroom. He served as the narrator of Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who,” the animated feature film adaptation of the popular children’s book. He also wrote books such as “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House,” and “Osgood on Speaking: How to Think on Your Feet without Falling on Your Face.”
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, the former Jean Crafton; five children (Kathleen Wood Griffis, Kenneth Winston Wood, Anne-E Wood, Emily J. Wood and Jamie Wood); a sister, Mary Ann; and a brother, Ken. His first marriage to Theresa Audette ended in divorce after 16 years.
“Watching him at work was a masterclass in communicating. I’ll still think to myself, ‘How would Charlie say it?’, trying to capture the elusive warmth and intelligence of his voice and delivery,” said Jane Pauley, who took the “Sunday Morning” reins after Osgood stepped away. “I expect I’ll go on trying.”
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