Rest in peace. Legendary 60 Minutes reporter Morley Safer died on Thursday, May 19, just one week after he retired from a storied 52-year career at CBS. He was 84.
"Morley Safer has died. A masterful storyteller, inspiration to many of us and a wonderful friend," 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager tweeted Thursday.
"Morley was one of the most important journalists in any medium, ever,” CBS Chairman and CEO, Leslie Moonves, said in a statement. “He broke ground in war reporting and made a name that will forever be synonymous with 60 Minutes. He was also a gentleman, a scholar, a great raconteur — all of those things and much more to generations of colleagues, his legion of friends, and his family, to whom all of us at CBS offer our sincerest condolences over the loss of one of CBS’ and journalism’s greatest treasures.”
The correspondent announced his retirement from 60 Minutes on Wednesday, May 11, with a one-hour special honoring his career that aired on Sunday, May 15.
“After more than 50 years of broadcasting on CBS News and 60 Minutes, I have decided to retire,” he announced during his final broadcast in March. “It’s been a wonderful run, but the time has come to say goodbye to all of my friends at CBS and the dozens of people who kept me on the air. But most of all I thank the millions of people who have been loyal to our broadcast.”
The intrepid reporter’s first story for 60 Minutes covered the U.S. Sky Marshals training in 1970, and his final story profiled Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. He was a correspondent for the news program for an impressive 46 seasons.
During that time, Safer made history with a 1965 piece showing U.S. Marines burning Vietnamese villagers' grass huts in a controversial war tactic, a story that led then-President Lyndon B. Johnson to call CBS President Frank Stanton and say, "Your boys shat on the American flag yesterday."
Never one to shy away from controversy, Safer pursued stories that highlighted other injustices, including “Lenell Geter’s in Jail,” about a young black man serving a life prison sentence for armed robbery in Texas. Safer's report exposed the court's sloppy rush to a verdict, and his conviction was overturned 10 days after the December 1983 story.
“Morley has had a brilliant career as a reporter and as one of the most significant figures in CBS News history, on our broadcast and in many of our lives," Fager said upon Safer’s retirement announcement. “Morley’s curiosity, his sense of adventure and his superb writing all made for exceptional work done by a remarkable man.”
Safer — along with the late Mike Wallace, Harry Reasoner, Ed Bradley, Bob Simon, Andy Rooney, Steve Kroft, Lesley Stahl and several others — helped to create and shape 60 Minutes into the revered news show that it is today.
The Toronto-born journalist worked at several publications in Canada before making the switch to broadcast news, as a correspondent at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He joined CBS in 1964 as a reporter based out of London, and opened the Saigon bureau one year later.
Safer holds the record for longest-serving correspondent for 60 Minutes.
In addition to broadcast news, Safer also penned the bestselling book Flashbacks: On Returning to Vietnam, which described his 1989 return to Vietnam and his interviews with various Vietnamese veterans.
Safer is survived by his wife, Jane Fearer, and their daughter, Sarah Alice Anne Safer, who is a freelance journalist.
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