Veteran News Producer Birnbaum Dead at 89

Last Updated 2:15 p.m. ET

There's been a death in our CBS News family: Former producer Bernard Birnbaum died on Thanksgiving Day at the age of 89.

Birnbaum had been at CBS News since 1951, and was a producer for "Sunday Morning" since 1990.

Throughout his distinguished career at the network, during which he received seven Emmy Awards, Bernie Birnbaum covered many of the most remarkable events of the past several decades, from political campaigns and the assassination of President Kennedy, to Watergate and the Vietnam War.

"Bernie was a mentor to generations of CBS News producers and correspondents," said CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus. "He always had an encouraging word and was always available to help with a problem. No one who had contact with Bernie can forget his enthusiasm as he would present some little known or forgotten treasure from the CBS News Archives - many of which he had been responsible for filming or taping."

As a producer, Birnbaum worked with many legendary CBS News correspondents (including Howard K. Smith, Charles Collingwood, Mike Wallace, Eric Sevareid and Morton Dean), using his talents as a photographer, director and storyteller to create innovative television journalism.

He was a producer for such CBS programs as "Adventure," "Eyewitness to History," and "The American Parade."

In September 1963 he was named an associate producer for the "CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite," the first half-hour daily news broadcast.

Birnbaum was dispatched by Cronkite to Dallas in November 1963 to produce CBS News' coverage of the immediate aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Reporting on the Kennedy assassination became a lifelong interest, resulting in many primetime broadcasts, including the 1993 "48 Hours" special "Who Killed Kennedy?"

"CBS News Inquiry: The Warren Report" (1967) were four one-hour specials examining the facts and allegations surrounding President Kennedy's assassination and the work of the commission appointed to investigate it.

Birnbaum also played a major role in coverage of the Vietnam War, making seven trips to that country. With the evacuation of American troops from Saigon in April 1975, he was part of the team of CBS News producers responsible for a special two-and-a-half hour retrospective, "Vietnam: A War That is Finished."

Birnbaum was also the senior producer for "On the Road with Charles Kuralt." In 1964, the two produced "Christmas in Appalachia," an award-winning half-hour documentary on the plight of unemployed miners in eastern Kentucky. On the basis of that broadcast, an unsolicited $70,000 from viewers poured into CBS, which some observers have suggested helped shape President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty program.

Born in 1920, Birnbaum served in Italy during World War II as a corporal in the 1st Motion Picture Unit of the Army Air Corps. Later he was in the first class of Fulbright Scholars and studied cinema in Rome.

Prior to joining CBS News, Bernie was a still photographer for MGM in Italy, and worked with such filmmakers as Roberto Rossellini, Federico Fellini, Luciano Emmer and Guiseppe DeSantis.

Birnbaum married the former Ronnie Gutman in 1950; she passed away in 2005. He is survived by two daughters, Deborah and Amy Birnbaum (who is also a producer at CBS News), and four grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday in Larchmont, N.Y.
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