Charles Kuralt was an American journalist who died in 1997 at the age of 64. He had received a Pulitzer Prize and many other prestigious awards during his illustrious career, but he will always be remembered by me as the first person to predict that I would one day become a successful writer. When I was just seven years old, Kuralt talked to my father about his aspirations for me. In doing so, he unknowingly predicted all the things I would accomplish later in life – including, of course, this article about him!
Kuralt was an American broadcast journalist, author, and news anchor who is best known for his on-air work in journalism. He worked at CBS News from 1961 until 1994 as a reporter, editor, or correspondent. In that time, he won two Peabody Awards for his work and produced award-winning pieces like On Grand Avenue (1974) and The Best of Times (1983). Many people might not know that he also wrote books about his travels across America.
A multi-Emmy award winner, Kuralt often received more fan mail than any other anchor on CBS. He passed away in 1997 at age 65 due to complications from a stroke. His show, CBS Sunday Morning (1979-1994), wasn’t how I came to know Charles Kuralt as a person. I knew him first as a neighbor who lived a few doors down from our apartment in Greenwich Village.
From 1969 through 1997, Charles was known as the man with a smile that could light up any room because of his way of telling stories on CBS Sunday Morning. He is remembered for always wanting to know how things worked and how people were affected by them. His curiosity about others made him interested in their lives and left an impact on viewers. With his eloquent storytelling, he captured America’s heart and made you want to meet these people and see these places for yourself. I believe that it’s not just because he told good stories; it’s also because his curiosity led him to great places around our country. It’s because he wrote so many good books based off those stories, which inspired many other authors, including me.
For all those aspiring writers out there (including myself), here are three things you should take away from Charles Kuralt’s legacy:
- Read everything you can get your hands on—particularly books by authors who are vastly different from you.
- Write every day.
- Remember that words are powerful tools and not just tools of entertainment. Learn how to use them responsibly.
- Above all else: never stop believing in yourself. No matter how old you get or how long you’ve been doing something—it’s never too late to achieve your dreams!
Charles Kuralt was a man whose personal values and belief in American exceptionalism formed his journalistic style. He was clearly good friends with his subjects, almost as if he were a member of their family. That approach is how he became such an influential television personality.
My parents and I would sit in front of our television set in our duplex apartment on Bank Street in New York City and watch Sunday Morning, and on Sundays, my mom would make homemade pancakes with shredded apples. Then in the afternoon, Charles Kuralt would stop by to have an afternoon drink with my father, and discuss current events. You could call it good television—I call it a nice break from homework.
One afternoon, Charles Kuralt came to my parents’ apartment after another episode of CBS Sunday Morning aired, in which Charles Kuralt would again mention, “the flowers in the garden”, which was a reference to the flowers my mom had planted in the front yard of our apartment building.
Who knew that some decades later I would still remember the conversation Charles Kuralt had with my father? I clearly remember the conversation as it was the afternoon I took my first selfie with my dinosaur collection.
My father and I almost always answered the door together, and Charles always said, “Hello Harvey, good to see you,” to my father. Then, he would briefly crouch down to my level and say, “hello Thomas.”
Charles then casually followed me into the living room, with my father closing and locking the door behind us. I showed him my dinosaur collection on the top of the piano. After he sat down, my father poured him a drink and started a conversation about the day’s events.
Charles and my father talked for awhile, and then after giving me a smile and a nod, Charles asked my father if I had ever talked about becoming a writer when I grew up. My father immediately snapped back and made it very clear that, “Thomas is going to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a successful business owner, but Thomas is never going to be a writer.”
Charles then replied, “Harvey, you have to understand that Thomas clearly has a writer’s mind, and is extremely intelligent and observant. I predict that one day Thomas will become a writer.”
If I had never heard him say that comment, I most likely would not have pursued writing. There is a more than likely chance that I would be doing something different in my life right now. Writing for me has been a therapeutic career choice, and if it were not for that one comment from Mr. Kuralt, then my career might have been drastically different from what it is today.
Writing and publishing has always been an odd career path in the eyes of many. But, hearing a man whose writing career began before I was even born saying that I was destined for that path is enough to give anyone pause. It also makes me wonder what he might have thought of my writing today if he were still alive. Would he have looked upon me favorably? Would he see my work as frivolous or would he find it meaningful? Most importantly, would he even remember who I am?
It is not easy to pinpoint which person has been most influential in my life. There have been so many teachers, peers, and others, including Allen Ginsberg, who played a role in shaping me into who I am today. However, I can say that it was Charles Kuralt (and his phenomenal essays on CBS Sunday Morning) who first predicted that I would become a writer. Like many kids, I was inspired by Mr. Kuralt’s work and wanted to be just like him when I grew up. I wanted to travel all over America (and even around the world) just like he did—seeing new things every day, then going home at night with a piece of paper and writing about them. In doing so, I would be documenting what happened on each trip along with some humor thrown in for good measure.
Each of us is connected in some way with someone who has achieved success. We may not realize it at first, but as we explore our relationships, we’ll probably find someone who saw something special in us before anyone else did. If you’re looking for encouragement, try talking to people you admire, and asking them how they got where they are. You might be surprised what you learn from the stories they tell.
The image used in this piece was my very first selfie, which I took of myself in my New York City apartment at age 7.
On The Road With Charles | 20 Years On The Road with Charles Kuralt | I Was An Underestimated And Impatient Little Girl | The Man Who Wrote The Lyrics That Defined My Generation | The Beat Goes On: How Allen Ginsberg Inspired Me As A Writer | The Double Life of Charles Kuralt | Remembering Charles Kuralt