Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Remembering Peter Jennings July 29, 1938 - August 7, 2005

President George Bush stated the meaning of Peter Jennings death as well as anyone could on August 7, 2005 when he said "Peter Jennings had a long and distinguished career as a news journalist.  He covered many important events, events that helped define the world as we know it today.  A lot of Americans relied upon Peter Jennings for their news.  He became a part of the lives of a lot of our fellow citizens, and he will be missed.  May God bless his soul."

I was one of those nightly followers of Peter Jennings on ABC's World News Tonight.  Jennings was one of the "Big Three" journalists for many years having competed against Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather.  

Peter Jennings was born in Toronto, Canada.  His father was a prominent radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  Peter began following in his father's footsteps at the age 9 when he started broadcasting a half hour show called "Peter's People" on Saturday mornings that was of course geared toward kids.  His dad was on a business trip in the Middle East when the show debuted and was outraged when he returned home having felt that Peter was being used by putting his son on the air.  

Peter was an outstanding athlete in high school but hated school having struggled academically and would soon drop out.  He did eventually complete high school and attend college.  He took a job as a bank teller.  During that time he took up acting and appeared in several amateur musical productions.  At the age of 21, he pursued his broadcasting career.  Producers saw in him a youthful attractiveness and compared him to American Bandstand's Dick Clark and Jennings began hosting a local dance show.  He soon decided to come to America and began his American career with ABC's New York affiliate.  He would become the youngest ever U.S. news anchor at 26.  At first, he had a difficult time being accepted in America because of his accent.  Also, he was competing with the likes of the loved Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.  He became foreign correspondent until his opening in national news coverage.

Peter Jennings became known for his marathon coverage of breaking news stories including the Gulf War, Millennium celebrations, September 11 attacks and the presidential debates. He could be very controversial at times and was often viewed as being "tough" during interviews.

He anchored "The Century: America's Time on the History Channel.

Over the lifetime of his career, Jennings won 16 Emmy Awards, 2 Peabody Awards and received both the Paul White and Edward Murrow awards for excellence in broadcasting.

He began to have speaking problems with his throat during the funeral of Pope John Paul 11.  On April 1, 2005, Jennings anchored World News Tonight for the last time.  He informed his viewers through a tape recorded message that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was starting treatments immediately.

Peter Jennings died on Aug. 7, 2005 from the disease at the age of 67.

A private funeral was held for Jennings in New York and he was cremated and a portion of his cremated remains were scattered at his home in Long Island, New York and a portion at his summer home in Canada.

He was honored with a public memorial service (program pictured) at Carnegie Hall in New York City on September 20, 2005 and among those who paid tribute to him were Ted Koppel, Bob Iger, and Dr. Tim Johnson.  Actor Alan Alda reflected on Jenning's life and music was performed by several musicians including YoYo Ma and Wynton Marsalis.  The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also saluted him.  

A favorite quote of Peter's appeared in the program  "Take him and cut him out in little stars  And he will make the face of heaven so fine  That all the world will be in love with night  And pay no worship to the garish sun."

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