Local Obituaries

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

David Dick
David Dick

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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