Q&A – Roger Mudd & Dr. Samuel Mudd

Today’s entry: I was saddened to hear the news of the death of your uncle Roger.

Bottom Line: Yesterday I awoke to a note letting me know legendary broadcaster Roger Mudd passed away Tuesday afternoon. He lived a long and incredibly accomplished life. Many in news media paid tribute to his incredible career which began in radio and culminated in becoming the nightly news anchor between Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather at CBS news. From there he became anchor of Meet the Press and eventually The History Channel, the work of his I most identified with.

Throughout the day yesterday, I received kind notes like the one above. The well wishes are truly appreciated. Though, there’s an important distinction and as I read in multiple stories yesterday, confusion regarding the family tree.

Roger wasn’t my uncle, he was a distant relative. It’s often been confused because of my career in broadcasting and because Dr. Samuel Mudd is a great uncle of mine. The background of my side of the family was predominantly farming and medicine. Roger’s side was often engaged in government work, he was raised in Virginia and turned to a career in news reporting. He was influential in my desire to enter broadcasting. I’ve shared the story regarding why I turned to radio over TV in the mid 90’s, as I wanted to be able to control my message.

What I don’t believe I’ve discussed is that I was originally inspired, in part, to pursue TV by Roger through his work at The History Channel. In the interview for my TV news internship in 1997, I was asked what my career goal was. I said I wanted to replace Roger at The History Channel.

Best that I’m aware, Roger was a Democrat until the day he died. It’s a testament to his professionalism and reporting that you’d have never known. Anyway, after his interview with Ted Kennedy effectively ended Ted’s primary challenge to Jimmy Carter, as he cited Chappaquiddick and dared ask him why he wanted to be president, many in the news industry turned on him.

Jimmy Carter was the Washington outsider from Georgia failing as president and Kennedy was, of course, establishment royalty within the network news organizations. The real reason Dan Rather was named permanent CBS Nightly News anchor over Roger Mudd was due to the incoming leadership team at CBS News being friends of the Kennedy’s who never forgave Roger for the interview that ended Ted’s presidential aspirations. That’s why Roger left CBS for NBC and Meet the Press. And as the late great Paul Harvey would have said, and now you know the rest of the story.

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.


Parler & Twitter:@brianmuddradio

Photo by: Smithsonian

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