Former CBS News Washington Bureau Chief William Small dies at 93

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CBS News is mourning the loss of William Small after his death Sunday following a brief illness unrelated to coronavirus. He was 93.

Small served as the network’s Washington Bureau Chief from 1962 to 1974 and brought together a team of journalists that would go on to dominate political coverage throughout the turbulent time of the Vietnam War and Watergate. 

The roster included veteran reporters recruited from within CBS: Marvin Kalb, Dan Rather, Harry Reasoner, Dan Schorr and Eric Sevareid. 

He made new hires: Bob Schieffer, Ed Bradley, Bernard Shaw, Bernard Kalb and Bill Moyers. 

And he championed the hiring of women: Lesley Stahl, Diane Sawyer, Connie Chung, Martha Teichner, Rita Braver and Susan Spencer.

Small’s team helped make the “CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite” number one in its slot for 20 straight years. 

“Bill Small was a hero to journalism,” said CBS News president Susan Zirinsky in a statement Sunday. “He hired me as a 20 year-old college student to work the weekend desk in the Washington Bureau two weeks after the Watergate break-in. He was tough as nails when it came to defending freedom of the press. He was strict, strong, and full of conviction. But the man had a heart of gold – which he only revealed one-third of the time. His daughter, Tamara Small, reminded me tonight that Bill always said, ‘The Washington Bureau and CBS News Division is an organization that remains the pinnacle of journalistic integrity.’ Every one of us carries Bill Small’s legacy with us – it’s core to who we are as journalists.”

In 2014, Small was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and was celebrated by several of the CBS News reporters who had worked for him.

“What I came to understand about Mr. Small was that when he became bureau chief he took responsibility for the bureau — its mission and its people, which is what real leaders do,” said Schieffer in a tribute at the time. Schieffer joined CBS News in 1969 and spent 46 years with the network. “He always had our backs and doubly so during the Watergate days, when the Nixon people went after CBS News reporters in ways we had not experienced before or since,” Schieffer said, adding that everyone called him “Mr. Small.”

“He defended me at every turn, including with the Nixon White House trying to get me fired,” Rather recalled.

Stahl, who joined CBS News in 1971 and has been a correspondent for “60 Minutes” since 1991, noted in the tribute to him how Small helped shape some of the defining news coverage of his era. 

“In many ways, Bill Small belongs to another age, the ‘golden age’ of television news, when part of the country’s evening ritual was gathering in front of the television to hear what had happened that day from ‘the most trusted man in America,’ Walter (no last name required),” said Stahl. “Bill was a part of that, and part of the incredible team at CBS News that helped define that era for millions of Americans.”

In 1979, Small left for NBC News, where he was named president, and in 1982, became president of United Press International. He was the chairman of the News and Documentary Emmy Awards from 2000 to 2010. 

“Bill Small was one of the ‘greats’ of our television news industry. In his time as a news executive at both NBC and CBS, he had an uncanny eye for talent and unwavering dedication to journalism,” said Terry O’Reilly, chairman of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. 

William Small, legendary Washington Bureau Chief for CBS News, has died at 93

CBS News is mourning the loss of William Small after his death Sunday following a brief illness unrelated to coronavirus. He was 93. Small served as the network’s Washington Bureau Chief from 1962 to 1974 and brought together a team of journalists that would go on to dominate political coverage throughout the turbulent time of the Vietnam War and Watergate.

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