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Roger Mudd

Roger Mudd
Born (1928-02-09) February 9, 1928
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Occupation American TV news anchor, journalist, correspondent
Years active 1953-present
Spouse(s) E. J. Spears
(1957–2011) (her death)
Children 4

Roger Mudd (born February 9, 1928) is an American broadcast journalist, most recently working as the primary anchor for The History Channel. Previously, Mudd was weekend and weekday substitute anchor for the CBS Evening News, the co-anchor of the weekday NBC Nightly News, and the host of the NBC-TV Meet the Press, and American Almanac TV programs. Mudd is the winner of the Peabody Award, the Joan Shorenstein Award for Distinguished Washington Reporting, and five Emmy Awards.


  • Early life and career 1
  • WTOP News 2
  • CBS News 3
    • Ted Kennedy interview 3.1
  • NBC News 4
  • PBS and The History Channel 5
  • Memoirs 6
  • Personal 7
  • References 8
  • Notes 9
  • External links 10

Early life and career

Mudd was born in Washington, D.C.[1] His father, John Kostka Dominic Mudd, was the son of a tobacco farmer, and he worked as a map maker for the United States Geological Survey, and his mother, Irma Iris Harrison, was the daughter of a farmer and she was a lieutenant for the U.S. Army Nursing Corps and then a nurse at the physiotherapy ward in the Walter Reed Hospital, where she met Roger's father.[2]

Roger Mudd received a B.A. degree from Washington and Lee University in 1950 – where one of his classmates was author Tom Wolfe – and an M.A. degree from the University of North Carolina in 1953.[3] Mudd is a member of Delta Tau Delta international fraternity.[4]

Mudd began his journalism career in Richmond, Virginia as a reporter for The Richmond News Leader and for radio station WRNL. At the News Leader, he worked at the rewrite desk during spring 1953 and became a summer replacement on June 15 that year.[5] The News Leader ran its first story with a Mudd byline on June 19, 1953.[6]

At WRNL radio, Mudd did the daily noon newscast. In his memoir The Place to Be, Mudd describes an incident from his first day at WRNL in which he laughed hysterically on-air after mangling a news item about the declining health of Pope Pius XII. Because Mudd failed to silence his microphone properly, an engineer intervened.[7] WRNL later gave Mudd his own daily broadcast, Virginia Headlines.[8] In the fall of 1954, Mudd enrolled in the University of Richmond School of Law but he dropped out after one semester.[9]


In the late 1950s, Mudd moved to Washington, D.C., to become a reporter with WTOP News, the news division of the radio and television stations owned by Post-Newsweek. Although WTOP News was a local news department, it covered many national stories. At first Mudd did the 6:00 a.m. newscast for WTOP and he did local news segments on the local TV program Potomac Panorama.

During the fall of 1956, Mudd hosted the first newscast he wrote WTOP's 6:00 p.m. newscast that included a weekly commentary piece, all without "the constraints of the wire service vocabulary".[10] Mudd produced a half-hour TV documentary in summer 1957 advocating the need for a third airport in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area.

In September that year, Mudd conducted his first live TV studio interview. The interview was with Dorothy Counts, a black teenage girl who suffered racial harassment at her all-white high school in Charlotte, North Carolina.[11] WTOP replaced Don Richards with Mudd for its 11 p.m. newscast in March 1959.[12]

CBS News

CBS News was located on the third floor of WTOP's studios at 40th and Brandywine in northwestern Washington, D.C. Mudd quickly came to the attention of CBS News and moved "downstairs" to join the Washington bureau on May 31, 1961.[13] For most of his career at CBS, Mudd was a Congressional correspondent. Mudd was also the anchor of the Saturday edition of CBS Evening News and he frequently substituted on the weeknight broadcasts when the anchorman Walter Cronkite was on vacation or working on special assignments. During the Civil Rights Movement, Mudd anchored the coverage of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom for CBS.[14]

On November 13, 1963, CBS-TV broadcast the documentary Case History of a Rumor, in which Mudd interviewed Rep. James Utt, a Republican of Santa Ana, California, about a rumor that Utt spread about Africans who were supposedly working with the United Nations to take over the United States.[15] Utt sued CBS-TV in U.S. Federal Court for libel, but the court dismissed the case.[16]

Mudd also covered numerous political campaigns. He was paired with CBS journalist Robert Trout in the August 1964 Democratic National Convention anchor booth, temporarily displacing Walter Cronkite, in an unsuccessful attempt to match the popular NBC Chet Huntley–David Brinkley anchor team. Mudd covered the 1968 Presidential campaign of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and he was in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when Kennedy was murdered on June 5, 1968.

Mudd hosted the seminal documentary The Selling of the Pentagon in 1971. He was a candidate to succeed Walter Cronkite as anchor of the CBS Evening News.[17] Despite substantial support for Mudd within the ranks of CBS News, the network management gave the position to Dan Rather after the longtime White House and 60 Minutes correspondent threatened to leave the network and sign a contract with ABC News.[18]

Ted Kennedy interview

Mudd is often remembered for an interview he conducted with Senator Edward M. Kennedy for a CBS-TV special on November 4, 1979, Teddy, telecast three days before Kennedy announced his challenge to President Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Democratic Presidential nomination. In addition to questioning Kennedy about the Chappaquiddick incident, Mudd asked, "Senator, why do you want to be President?" Kennedy's stammering answer which has been described as "incoherent and repetitive"[19] as well as "vague, unprepared"[20] raised serious questions about his motivation in seeking the office, and marked the beginning of the sharp decline in Kennedy's impressive poll numbers.[19] Mr. Carter defeated Kennedy 50 percent to 38 percent in the Democratic primary vote. Although the Kennedy family refused to permit any further interviews by Mudd, the interview helped strengthen Mudd's reputation as a leading political reporter.[21]

The broadcaster and blogger Hugh Hewitt and the Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson have used the term "Roger Mudd moment" to describe a self-inflicted disastrous encounter with the press by a presidential candidate.[20]

NBC News

In 1980, Mudd and Dan Rather were in contention to succeed Walter Cronkite as the weeknight anchor of the CBS Evening News. Mudd was turned down for the job, which was awarded to Rather. Mudd then chose to leave CBS News and he accepted an offer to join NBC News. He co-anchored NBC Nightly News from April 1982 until September 1983, when Tom Brokaw took over as sole anchor.

From 1984 to 1985, Mudd was the co-moderator of the NBC Meet the Press program with Marvin Kalb, and later he served as the co-anchor with Connie Chung on two NBC news magazines, American Almanac and 1986.

PBS and The History Channel

From 1987 to 1992, Mudd was an essayist and political correspondent with the MacNeil–Lehrer Newshour on PBS. He was a visiting professor at Princeton University and Washington and Lee University from 1992 to 1996. Mudd was also a primary anchor for over ten years with The History Channel, where many of his programs are still often repeated in reruns. Mudd retired from full-time broadcasting in 2004, yet remains involved with documentaries for The History Channel.


Mudd's memoirs, The Place to Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News, was published on March 24, 2008.


Mudd resides in McLean, Virginia. He was married to the former E. J. Spears of Richmond, Virginia, who died in 2011. They had three sons and a daughter: Daniel, the former CEO of Fortress Investment Group LLC and the former CEO of Fannie Mae,[22] the singer and songwriter Jonathan Mudd, the author Maria Mudd Ruth, and Matthew Mudd. He has eleven grandchildren. His family is indirectly related to Samuel Mudd, the doctor who was imprisoned for aiding and conspiring with John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.[23]

Mudd has been active as a Trustee of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, with which he helped to establish its popular "Ethics Bowl," featuring student teams from Virginia's private colleges debating real-life cases involving ethical dilemmas.[24] He is also a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery.

On December 10, 2010, Roger Mudd donated $4 million to his alma mater, Washington and Lee University, to establish the Roger Mudd Center for the Study of Professional Ethics and to endow a Roger Mudd Professorship in Ethics. "For 60 years," he said, "I've been waiting for a chance to acknowledge Washington and Lee's gifts to me. Given the state of ethics in our current culture, this seems a fitting time to endow a center for the study of ethics, and my university is its fitting home." [25]


  • Mudd, Roger (2008), The Place to Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News, New York, New York, U.S.: PublicAffairs,  


  1. ^ Mudd 2008, p. 19
  2. ^ Mudd 2008, p. 20
  3. ^ Bio,, 2008, retrieved 2009-07-17 
  4. ^ Retrieved 2012-02-19
  5. ^ Mudd 2008, pp. 5–6
  6. ^ Mudd 2008, p. 8
  7. ^ Mudd 2008, pp. 11–12
  8. ^ Mudd 2008, p. 14
  9. ^ Mudd 2008, p. 16
  10. ^ Mudd 2008, pp. 20–21
  11. ^ Mudd 2008, p. 21
  12. ^ Mudd 2008, p. 23
  13. ^ Mudd 2008, pp. 30–32
  14. ^ Mudd 2008, pp. 116–117
  15. ^ Mudd 2008, pp. 122–124
  16. ^ Mudd 2008, pp. 124–125
  17. ^ Al Eisele (April 19, 2008). "Roger Mudd's Revenge".  
  18. ^ Martha Smilgis (March 3, 1980). "His Name Is Mud to CBS Rivals, but Dan Rather Says That's the Way It Is".  
  19. ^ a b Allis, Sam (2009-02-18), Chapter 4: Sailing Into the Wind: Losing a quest for the top, finding a new freedom,  
  20. ^ a b Gerson, Michael (2008-06-20), "A False Moderate?", The Washington Post: A19 
  21. ^ "'"Roger Mudd: Ted Kennedy recollection a 'fantasy.  
  22. ^ Government may soon back troubled mortgage giants
  23. ^ Goldstein, Richard (2002-05-25), "Dr. Richard Mudd, 101, Dies; Grandfather Treated Booth", The New York Times, retrieved 2009-05-23 
  24. ^ Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC)
  25. ^ The Roger Mudd Center for Ethics : Washington and Lee University

External links

  • Official Web Site
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
    • , June 6, 1999.Great Minds of History interview with Mudd on Booknotes
    • , March 30The Place To Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News interview with Mudd, about Q&AC-SPAN and April 6, 2008
  • Roger Mudd interview video at the Archive of American Television
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