David Dick: 1930-2010

David Dick, former CBS newsman from Ky., dies at age 80

CBS veteran embraced rural life

ctruman@herald-leader.comJuly 17, 2010 

  • David Dick

    Born: Feb. 18, 1930 in Cincinnati, Ohio

    Family: Wife, Lalie; children, Sam, Deborah, Catherine, Nell and Ravy.

    Education: North Middletown High School; University of Kentucky

    Military: U.S. Navy during Korean conflict

    Professional: WHAS radio and television in Louisville, 1959-1966; CBS News, 1966-1985; University of Kentucky associate professor, 1985-1987; UK school of journalism director, 1987-1993. Retired from UK in June, 1996.

    Honors: Emmy for covering the attempted assassination of presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972; Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, 1987; Distinguished Rural Kentuckians Award, 2003.

    Books by David Dick: A Journal for Lalie: Living Through Prostate Cancer; The View from Plum Lick; Peace at the Center; A Conversation with Peter P. Pence; The Quiet Kentuckians; The Scourges of Heaven; Follow the Storm: A Long Way Home; Jesse Stuart — The Heritage

    Books by David and Lalie Dick: Home Sweet Kentucky; Rivers of Kentucky; Kentucky: A State of Mind

    KET to rebroadcast programs featuring David Dick

    In memory of author and journalist David Dick, Kentucky Educational Television will rebroadcast two programs featuring interviews with the Kentucky-raised newsman.

    On July 18, KET will air a 2003 Kentucky Life program in which host Dave Shuffett talks with the writer about the many places and events that helped define his career and about what constitutes a well-lived life. The program airs at 7:30 pm on KET2.

    Later that evening, at 11 p.m. on KET, One to One with Bill Goodman features a 2007 interview with Dick, talking about his career and his then-upcoming book detailing his battle with prostate cancer.

David Dick, a TV correspondent during CBS' news broadcast heyday and more recently a chronicler of the hamlet of Plum Lick in his native Bourbon County, died Friday at his home. He was 80.

Mr. Dick was a correspondent for CBS during the era of anchor Walter Cronkite (1962-1981), when the "Tiffany Network" was the gold standard among television news organizations.

"David Dick was a CBS news correspondent when that really meant something," said reporter and author Bernard Goldberg, who worked with Mr. Dick. "His colleagues were Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, Roger Mudd. ... These were people who made CBS ... the Tiffany network, and David Dick was part of that."

Mr. Dick was diagnosed with prostate cancer 17 years ago. He vigorously fought the disease, often speaking publicly and writing about the toll it had taken on him. On July 8, his wife Lalie said in an e-mail that David Dick was still determined to get out of bed and return to work.

At life's end, he wanted to be at his home in Bourbon County. Lalie Dick said he died peacefully; his adult children read to him, and Lalie Dick sang to him.

Although Mr. Dick had reported from all over the world, in his later years he grew to know Kentucky from Paducah to Pikeville. He and Lalie Dick, a woman he never ceased to praise, sold books that they wrote all over the state, but they were particularly well-known at the Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort each autumn.

Carl West of Frankfort, the patriarch of the Kentucky Book Fair and editor of Frankfort's State-Journal newspaper, said that Mr. Dick's niche on the Kentucky literary scene is unlikely to be filled.

"I think David's contribution was his writing and language and how he applied it to the state ... what his senses told him," West said. "He'll be remembered for his literary effort."

Former CBS correspondent Roger Mudd, who often anchored when Cronkite was away, said Friday that Mr. Dick also had a playful side. He remembered an evening news report that Mr. Dick did about kudzu, an import from Japan and China sometimes called "the plant that ate the South" because of its ability to spread quickly.

At the end of the report, Mr. Dick signed off — and seemingly vanished into the kudzu vines himself.

"He was an indefatigable reporter, very serious about what he did, and could take a hammering," Mudd said. "... (But) he was sporty that way, not afraid to have fun with the story and the progression."

He also said Mr. Dick was "very, very modest. ... He did not fit the stereotype of the Ted Baxter swaggering pretty boy image that so many have of TV journalists."

Baxter was the comically pompous local TV anchor on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Mudd said that for Mr. Dick, " ... the television was almost secondary to his desire to get it right and to do it well."

Mr. Dick also wrote a column for Kentucky Living magazine, in which he was identified as "a retired news correspondent and University of Kentucky professor emeritus ... (and) a farmer and shepherd."

In his May column, he wrote: "A life lived well as we learn each day to keep it simpler and saner, that is our security. That is the inheritance we leave for the next generations."

Mr. Dick grew up in Bourbon County, graduated from the University of Kentucky as an English literature major and became a reporter at CBS News, where he worked from 1966 to 1985.

Mr. Dick's most celebrated work at CBS was his coverage of the aftermath of Rev. Jim Jones' 1978 cult mass suicide in Guyana, in which 900 of Jones' followers drank a cyanide-laced drink and lay down in the jungle to die.

He also was the CBS correspondent when Arthur Bremer made an unsuccessful assassination attempt on presidential candidate George Wallace at a Maryland shopping center. Dick won an Emmy for that coverage.

Although his focus softened in his later years as he wrote about rural life, Dick's 2002 book Follow the Storm detailed his work as CBS's South American bureau chief from 1978 to 1979, when he covered civil wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.

"Our specialty was paramilitary: Hit the ground running, find the storm, go to the eye of it, and serve it up for dinner between Andy Griffith and I Love Lucy," he wrote.

Hinton-Turner Funeral Home in Paris is in charge of arrangements. Visitation will be Sunday, from 3 to 8 p.m. at the funeral home. The funeral service will be 1 p.m. Monday at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Paris. He will be buried in the North Middletown Cemetery.

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