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CBS News Vet Crawford Dies

Bill Crawford, one of the pioneering figures in broadcast journalism, died Friday night at the age of 70.

Behind the scenes for 35 years, from the legendary radio days of Murrow; through the early television news days of Douglas Edwards and Walter Cronkite; and culminating with the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, Crawford helped build CBS News.

"Crawford was the nicest tough guy in the business," Rather said. "He had incredibly high standards."

Rather added, "Crawford made CBS News a writers' network; he was the best teacher who taught two generations of correspondents."

"Bill Crawford embodied the best traditions of CBS News; in fact, he helped invent them," said Andrew Heyward, president, CBS News. "He was a generous mentor to all of us who had the privilege to work beside him. Bill taught us not just the craft of broadcast journalism, but pride in the craft."

"He had a gift and a passion for guiding the younger writers and correspondents on the staff," said Al Ortiz, executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.

Ortiz added, "Bill was a master editor and wordsmith who prized clarity and economy of language above all else. He was known as the Grammar Police, and he delighted in pulling correspondents over for 'like' in a 'such as' zone."

Crawford started at CBS Radio News in 1956 and was one of the first to move to television. He was a writer and producer for the first television evening news broadcast with Douglas Edwards, working with Don Hewitt, the executive producer of that broadcast and now 60 Minutes.

"I never worked with anyone more professional. He would brook no nonsense, which was essential during those early days of this medium," Hewitt said.

"Crawford understood television news from the beginning and understood the difference from radio," according to Rather. "He was a phenom at the time; a golden boy, but Crawford was never a boy."

In 1960, he was among those at CBS News who helped create modern election coverage. Two years later, he launched the first network weekend newscast, which aired at 1 in the afternoon.

In 1963, Crawford was a key contributor to CBS News' coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Rather also credited Crawford as one of the crucial people behind the network's pivotal reporting of the civil rights movement.

He moved to Washington and helped build the bureau there, working with such correspondents as Rather, Roger Mudd, Eric Sevareid, Marvin Kalb, Daniel Shorr, Bob Pierpoint, Bob Schieffer, and George Herman.

Bob Schieffer, now anchor of the CBS News broadcast Face the Nation, said "Crawford was a good friend to many of us at CBS News, and more important, he was a good friend of journalism, who made it a lot better than it was."

In the late 60's and early 70's, Crawford also produced for the CBS Morning News and the magazie broadcast, Who's Who.

He became CBS's lead political field producer, working with correspondent Mudd. Crawford covered every political convention from 1968 through 1990.

Crawford returned to New York in the mid-80s as senior producer of the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. He ended his career as the Senior Broadcast Producer of the program in 1991.

Tom Bettag, executive producer of ABC's Nightline, was the executive producer of the CBS Evening News during Crawford's last years at the network.

"Bill was the consummate newsman," Bettag said.

"He was uncompromising with correspondents no matter how crushing a deadline. He was determined that the CBS Evening News set the standard for writing and reporting," Bettag remembered.

Crawford was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer three weeks ago. He was hospitalized Friday at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. after complaining of shortness of breath at his West Virginia home. Early Friday evening, he said good night to family members and told them he and was going to finish the New York Times crossword puzzle, a daily devotion. Four hours later he died.

Crawford born in Lansing, Michigan, is survived by his wife, three children, two granddaughters and a sister.

©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved

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