The name Roger Mudd ring a bell? How about George Herman? Marvin Kalb? Surely, Daniel Schorr? Or that other Dan—Rather?
For me, a little Kentucky wannabe, these names possessed a haunting encirclement of talent, passion, and commitment to get to the bottom of things that should matter most—truth-seeking and truth-telling. It was not entertainment we craved. Nor feeding the animals at the three-ring circus. It was something called broadcast journalism.
Oh, yes, you may disagree. You may believe these five CBS journalists and I were up to little good. Possible disagreement is part of the richness of living in a free and open society, sometimes like trying to nail jelly to a tree.
With that said—agreeing to disagree—there’s a new book that has brought me much pleasure. It’s Roger Mudd’s The Place To Be—Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News.
I worked there from 1966 to 1970 at the CBS News Bureau, 2020 M Street. I couldn’t have been happier if I were the head cook at the White House, or the majority leader of one of the houses of Congress, or the ticket taker on the old C&O (Chesapeake and Ohio Railway for you younguns).
When I stepped down from the George Washington, the train that had brought me east from Louisville, Lexington, and Ashland, and I walked in at the CBS Washington Bureau the first time, I could hardly believe my eyes. I was actually looking at “The Front Row”—five small spaces occupied from right to left by Dan Rather, Daniel Schorr, Marvin Kalb, Roger Mudd, and George Herman.
I had garnered enough Plum Lick spunk to ask for a chance to audition for the opportunity to stand alongside some of the superstars of broadcast journalism. True, I’d appeared on the scene after Edward R. Murrow had passed through. Eric Sevareid’s separate office in the corner was about as approachable as Mt. Everest. Walter Cronkite was up there in New York City—when he came down to Washington from his Big Apple orchard, it was a time for as much respect as we Plum Lickers accord the richest of uncles.
Bill Small had hired me in 1959 at WHAS Radio and Television in Louisville, and he had moved up to become CBS’ Washington bureau chief. He gave me the chance to follow him—to write network news stories and to read them on camera. Somehow, I did it and was hired at $195 a week—wages for what was hardly considered “hot property.”
Mainly, I had a strong belief in Emerson’s Self Reliance—didn’t know how far that road would take me, but was just contrary enough to go for a ride before the train left the station.
Fast forward 42 years.
Back on Plum Lick. Watching the seasons change, welcoming the rains as they come, greeting sunrises, waving to the sunsets.
The Emmy and the clock from Tiffany’s sit proudly in the roundhouse. The train ride seeming to be over before it hardly had blown its first whistle. But there would be more, much more—almost 20 years of writing the back page column for Kentucky Living—“The View from Plum Lick.” And after writing books, including Rivers of Kentucky and Home Sweet Kentucky, another challenge appears—writing Let There Be Light, The Story of Rural Electrification in Kentucky, to be introduced at this year’s Kentucky Book Fair, November 15, at the Civic Center in Frankfort.
A special guest will attend. Many will know him instantly. Others should want to, whatever the age, whatever the circumstance. His smile is warm. His words ring true.
Roger Mudd is his name. The Place To Be is his book. Those who come to see him and possibly buy his book will be, I believe, refreshed.
Everybody has a place to be, and many in Kentucky are well-rooted with a strong sense of place. To me, that means standing tall and giving shade.