Harold Dow Broke Barriers, Landed Exclusives


CBS' "48 Hours Mystery" Correspondent Peter Van Sant wrote this remembrance.

The world stood still Saturday morning when the CBS News family, and the "48 Hours Mystery" team learned of the passing of our beloved colleague Harold Dow. He was just 62 years old. I loved the guy. And to be honest, I still haven't wrapped my brain around the fact that he is gone.

Harold is a man who could have been just about anything in life. And I mean anything. He was incredibly funny, insightful, caring, tough when he needed to be, determined and as a colleague, a friend.

Obituary: Harold Dow
Photos: Harold Dow Remembered

Those of you who have watched Harold's work at CBS News over the past four decades may wonder if the man you saw on the air was the same in real life. I can tell you yes. Harold was the kind of man who could make you feel in minutes like you'd known him for years. But he was far more than a dedicated professional. Harold was devoted to his wife and three children. He has pictures of them all over his office, which was our constant meeting place.

Harold was a pioneer in broadcast journalism. When he began his career in the late '60s, the idea of a black television news reporter was nearly unheard of. Harold became the first in the state of Nebraska, when KETV put this extraordinary talent on the air. Harold has told me of those early days. When he was first on the air, there were calls to the station asking, "What the hell is that [n-word] doing on your station?" But those kinds of people were in the minority.

Harold has spoken fondly of his time in Nebraska, where his skills as a broadcast journalist really took off. In 1977, after Harold had moved on to CBS News, I was hired at KETV. I met another African American pathfinder there in Ben Gray, who was the first black cameraman in Omaha and a good buddy of Harold's. Ben had such fond memories. Both were among the most courageous men I'd ever met. They overcame obstacles and prospered.

The first time I met Harold was in 1981, when I was a reporter at KOOL-TV in Phoenix. I was covering one of the biggest stories of the year for us, the return to Arizona of Jimmy Lopez, who had been one of the 52 American hostages held by Iran. I was at the airport as Lopez's jet taxied up to where a group of reporters and officials had gathered. The door to the jet opens, the ladder is lowered, and down comes a TV camera crew.

We were all waiting for Jimmy to emerge when this man with an afro pops out, pauses for a moment as if to say, "I own this story," and heads down the stairs. Someone in the crowd asked, "Who the hell is that guy!?!" "Harold Dow," someone answered. Harold was doing what he did best, kicking the hell out of the competition. He not only got the first interview with Jimmy, he had ridden with him in the airplane!

During his career at CBS News, Harold got some huge exclusives. And these weren't stories just handed to him, these were stories he got himself, "old school style."

When the entire world wanted to interview O.J. Simpson, it was Harold who got his butt in the chair. When boxer Mike Tyson's story was red hot, it was Harold who got the first major interview. And back in the olden days, when Patty Hearst, the daughter a newspaper and television mogul, was kidnapped by a terrorist organization -- and eventually joined the group -- it was Harold who got the biggest interview of the year, an exclusive with Patty that helped cement his career at CBS News.

At "48 Hours," Harold could do it all. His range left me in awe. Harold could talk to anyone from presidents to pimps, rock stars and accused murderers. He loved his work, loved every minute of chasing the bad guys. He was 62 going on 25. In the past year, his profile of civil rights hero Medgar Evers won a major award. I'm serious when I say it was one of the best stories I've seen in the last five years.

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Life is cruel sometimes, and this is a cruel moment. Harold had recently "retired" although he was still going to do several hours for our show this season. I'd never seen him happier. I'm going to miss Harold's friendship, optimism, energy, humor and that big laugh that often announced he was in the office. We've lost a great one in Harold, whose career spanned from Cronkite to Couric.

God bless you Harold. And may God help your family find peace in the days ahead.