Rus­sell H. ‘Russ’ Ward

NBC ra­dio broad­caster, whose ca­reer spanned 7 pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tions, served in Navy in WWII, en­joyed sail­ing

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - OBITUARIES - By Fred­er­ick N. Ras­mussen

“It’s the world news roundup! Ma­jor news de­vel­op­ments with on-the-scene re­ports direct from the world­wide staff of NBC News. Good morn­ing, this is Russ Ward, in the NBC news­room in Wash­ing­ton!”

In an in­ter­view, Mr. Ward ex­plained that he prob­a­bly in­toned those words into a mi­cro­phone 50,000 times dur­ing his more than three-decade ca­reer with NBC News in its Wash­ing­ton bureau. “Af­ter say­ing that for 50,000 times, it was pretty easy to re­mem­ber,” he said.

“Russ was one of the great ra­dio voices,” Cal Thomas, a former NBC re­porter and syn­di­cated colum­nist who got know Mr. Ward when he worked in the net­work’s Wash­ing­ton bureau, said in a telephone in­ter­view.

“I was a copy boy from 1961 to 1965, and it was a great en­try-level job in those days,” said Mr. Thomas, who later was an NBC re­porter from 1969 to 1973. “I worked with Huntley and Brink­ley, Robert McCormick, Peter Hackes, Eli Abel, San­der Vanocur and Jack Perkins, who both died last year. It was a pow­er­ful life ex­pe­ri­ence for me. And now Russ, who was the last of the greats. ”

Mr. Thomas re­called watch­ing Mr. Ward when he was on the air de­liv­er­ing what was then a 15-minute news­cast.

“I would stand by the stu­dio glass and watch him work. I wanted to be like him, and thought if I stood there, his skills would trans­fer to me. Russ al­ways said, ‘I was there just in case he keeled over and then would rush in and take over his show,’ ” he said, with a laugh.

Vet­eran NBC weath­er­man Wil­lard Scott, in an email to Mr. Ward’s fam­ily, de­scribed him as “the great­est voice since Low­ell Thomas,” adding that “no one could touch his re­port­ing.”

Mr. Ward, a former long-time Edge­wa­ter res­i­dent who moved to Bradenton, Florida, in 2014, died at his home there Nov. 24 from can­cer. He was 93.

Rus­sell Hunter Ward, son of Allen Hunter Ward, and his wife, Alice Ward, fed­eral govern­ment work­ers, was born and raised in Chat­tanooga, Ten­nessee, where he grad­u­ated from Chat­tanooga High School, some­times re­ferred to as City High School, fam­ily mem­bers said.

He fell un­der the spell of ra­dio as a kid grow­ing up in the 1930s de­spite his par­ents call­ing it a “waste of time.” An early in­flu­ence was Dave Gar­roway, who worked for Pitts­burgh’s KDKA and later WMAQ in Chicago, where he was a disc jockey.

The ur­bane Mr. Gar­roway, whose im­age was height­ened by his fa­mous round tor­toise shell glasses, later was an­chor of NBC’s “To­day” show from 1952 to 1961.

Af­ter serv­ing in the Navy dur­ing World War II, Mr. Ward earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in speech on the GI Bill from North­west­ern Univer­sity.

“He ac­tu­ally wanted to be an ac­tor and had a beau­ti­ful voice. It be­came his call­ing card,” said a daugh­ter, Al­li­son Ward Moore of Sara­sota, Florida.

Mr. Ward be­gan his ca­reer with NBC as a news writer for WRC in Wash­ing­ton in 1953.

“For 34 years be­gin­ning in 1953, Russ

Ward went globe trot­ting on NBC’s dime, whether as the ra­dio pool re­porter for the Apollo 7 splashdown in the Pa­cific or train­ing Pres­i­dent Nixon’s en­tourage for a sum­mit in Moscow. But no two whiteknuck­le events were the same,” re­ported the Daily Com­mer­cial, a Lees­burg, Florida, news­pa­per in 2019.

“Be­cause most of them came from newspapers, they banged out their own stuff. They all wrote their own stuff,” Mr. Thomas said. “I used to file the scripts but would read them first. They were my first class­room.”

Dur­ing his re­port­ing years, Mr. Ward cov­ered the as­sas­si­na­tions of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, and was present in 1975 when two would-be as­sas­sins, Sara Jane Moore and Squeaky Fromme, were un­suc­cess­ful in their at­tempts to kill Pres­i­dent Ger­ald R. Ford.

He cov­ered NASA mis­sions and then, af­ter leav­ing the pres­i­den­tial beat, be­came the Se­nate re­porter af­ter Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter was in­au­gu­rated.

“Russ and I worked side by side, morn­ing, noon and night in a cramped White House press booth dur­ing Nixon’s last year, shar­ing tips and gos­sip, stale sand­wiches and cold cof­fee,” former an­chor­man Tom Brokaw told the Sara­sota Her­ald-Tri­bune in 2019. “He was the ul­ti­mate pro, fil­ing pitch-per­fect ra­dio up­dates ev­ery hour with a photo of his beloved sail­boat above his mi­cro­phone. … I’ve never worked with a bet­ter pro — or friend.”

“We are no longer talk­ing to ca­sual lis­ten­ers, but to to peo­ple who have a knowl­edge of pol­i­tics. …. Nowa­days, our au­di­ence wants fast and ac­cu­rate re­port­ing,” Mr. Ward said in a 1969 NBC pro­mo­tional ad­ver­tise­ment.

He spent the last 13 years of his ca­reer un­til re­tir­ing in 1987 cov­er­ing the Se­nate, a less than de­sir­able beat, he said, be­cause of the te­dious leg­isla­tive process and the out­size egos of se­na­tors.

He took a buy­out af­ter Gen­eral Elec­tric ac­quired RCA, the par­ent com­pany of NBC, which then sold the NBC Ra­dio Net­work to West­wood 1.

In ad­di­tion to the chang­ing cli­mate of Capi­tol Hill pol­i­tics, Mr. Ward was in­creas­ingly put off by the ed­i­to­ri­al­iza­tion of the news by re­porters.

“I tried to avoid be­ing opin­ion­ated, and I’d like to think I es­caped opin­ions,” he ex­plained in the Sara­sota news­pa­per in­ter­view. “I sus­pect opin­ions did slip in, de­pend­ing on which ad­verbs you used, for ex­am­ple. That could change the tone of a sen­tence.”

He moved to Edge­wa­ter, where he en­joyed sail­ing the Wind­ward, his 48-foot cut­ter as far north as Nova Sco­tia and south­ward to the Caribbean and Mex­ico. When he moved to Bradenton, he took the Wind­ward with him and made two voy­ages aboard the ves­sel to Havana.

Mr. Ward’s wife of 45 years, the former Sil­via Bar­bara Car­nazza, died in 2000.

A cel­e­bra­tion of life gath­er­ing in May is pri­vate.

In ad­di­tion to his daugh­ter, Mr. Ward is sur­vived by a son, Allen Ward, and an­other daugh­ter, Camille Lisa Ward of Philadel­phia.

Russ Ward was a noted ra­dio jour­nal­ist and long-time Edge­wa­ter res­i­dent.

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