NBC Newsman Irving R. Levine Dies

Former NBC-TV news correspondent Irving R. Levine died Friday from complications of prostate cancer in Washington. He was 86. Levine covered the Korean war and became the first U.S. television correspondent granted permission to broadcast from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. America has lost one of its great news men. Irving R. Levine died today in Washington, D.C., of complications from cancer. He was 86. NPR's Neda Ulaby reports.

NEDA ULABY: During some of the iciest days of the Cold War, an NBC foreign correspondent sent dispatches to American living rooms directly from Moscow.

Mr. IRVING R. LEVINE (NBC Foreign Correspondent): Soviet scientists won't predict when they will be prepared to launch their satellite. They claim they are not interested in a race with America.

ULABY: Levine's era was one of such terrible technology, it could take a day to call New York from Moscow, but Levine appreciated the time he had to think through stories. He was the first accredited U.S. reporter in the Soviet Union.

Mr. KEVIN ROSS (President, Lynn University): There were so many firsts with him, it seems.

ULABY: Kevin Ross is president of Lynn University in Florida, where for 15 years, the news man was better known as Dean Levine.

Mr. ROSS: He was there for the first heart transplant, he lived in communist Russia, he lived in communist China. He had had so many amazing and interesting first-hand experiences.

ULABY: Levine bore witness to the Berlin blockade, the Korean War, uprisings in Algeria and the Belgian Congo. He reported from Rome for 10 years.

Levine got reassigned to Washington in 1970. The lifestyle of foreign correspondents had changed, thanks to new technology, and Levine disliked having to file constantly. Some thought he was being put to pasture when Levine started covering economics. They were completely wrong.

(Soundbite of TV program, "NBC News Update")

Mr. LEVINE: This is "NBC News Update," brought to you by…

ULABY: Levine took a beat seen as dry and stolid and made it clear and compelling. It helped that he found himself covering recessions, oil embargos and labor upheavals in the 1970s.

(Soundbite of TV program, "NBC News Update")

Mr. LEVINE: The president's announcement came after days of intense White House pressure on the mine owners to sign a contract…

ULABY: Irving R. Levine cut an iconic figure in network news rooms, in part because of his ever-present bow tie. Lynn College President Kevin Ross said once during Levine's tenure as dean, he was running late to an appointment. Ross knocked on the door and saw Levine dashing out notes in longhand, his bow tie shockingly undone.

Mr. ROSS: And within about three seconds, with one hand, he tied his bow tie and put his notes in his pocket and said okay, I'm ready. So he was the consummate news man. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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