CBS News' Tom Fenton Retires

Tom Fenton
Tom Fenton, a 34-year veteran of CBS News and the dean of American foreign correspondents, has retired.

With a career that began with a world exclusive interview of American hostages taken by the PLO during its first hijacking in 1970 through coverage of most of the major wars and events in Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Africa since then, Fenton has manifested the title "foreign correspondent."

He has been based in CBS News bureaus in London, most recently since 1996, Moscow (1994-96), London (1979-94), Paris (1977-79), Tel Aviv (1973-77) and Rome (1970-73).

"Tom is the embodiment of the wise and worldly CBS News correspondent," said CBS News President Andrew Heyward. "He is equally at home dodging bullets on a battlefield or prowling the corridors of power in London or Moscow or Jerusalem. In a world where civility is increasingly a casualty of competitive pressures, Tom holds steady to that most old-fashioned of virtues: He's a true gentleman."

For the past three-plus decades, Fenton, 74, has covered most of the major events in Europe, the Middle East and the countries of the former Soviet Union, often spotting trends that make future headlines.

He was the first American television correspondent to report the growing unrest in Eastern Germany, almost a decade before the Berlin Wall came down, and throughout the 1980s he chronicled the crumbling of communism and the struggle for democracy throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

Fenton was in Moscow for the August 1991 coup and the lowering of the Red Flag over the Kremlin that December. In the mid-1990s, he spent two years in Moscow reporting on Russia's tightrope transition to capitalism and the traumatic war in Chechnya.

Fenton also was the first American television correspondent to report the tensions in Iran that led to the overthrow of the Shah, and the first to interview Ayatollah Khomeini. He returned to Tehran during the months that followed the 1979 takeover of the American Embassy and, a decade later, was there to report Khomeini's bizarre funeral.

Fenton initially distinguished himself as a war correspondent, covering the India-Pakistan War in 1971, the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, the 1974 war in Cyprus, the Lebanese civil war and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

During the Gulf war in 1991, he reported from Israel during the Scud missile attacks and has periodically returned to Israel and the Persian Gulf for subsequent crises. Fenton reported the early days of the war in the former Yugoslavia and the start of the massacres in Central Africa.

But it hasn't been all wars and revolutions for Fenton. He has reported on medicine, politics, culture and economic and social trends, including the ups and downs of the British royal family over the years. Fenton was a key member of the award-winning CBS News team reporting on the death and funeral of Princess Diana.

Fenton also writes a weekly column on current affairs for He will continue to do so in retirement.

He joined CBS News in 1970 and was initially based in Rome.

Prior to that, Fenton was both a domestic and a foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Sun (1961-66), covering Europe and the Middle East. He cut his foreign correspondent's teeth on the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, followed by the 1968 Paris "Days of May," for which he received his first journalism award, from the Overseas Press Club.

Fenton has received a total of eight Overseas Press Club awards and citations, an Alfred I. Dupont-Columbia Journalism Silver Baton Award and four Emmy Awards.

He was an officer in the United States Navy (1952-61), serving on destroyers in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Fenton was in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when Castro arrived in 1953 and in the Eastern Mediterranean during the 1958 Lebanon crisis.

Fenton was born in Baltimore. He was graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1952 with B.A. in English. Fenton and his wife, the former Simone France Marie Lopes-Curval, have two children.