Lew Wood, who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., covered John F. Kennedy’s assassination and was a news anchor for NBC’s “Today” show during a distinguished broadcast career that began with the dawn of television, died Aug. 21 at a hospice in Riverside County, Calif. He was 84.
The cause was kidney failure, his daughter Brigitte Wood told the Associated Press.
Mr. Wood was perhaps best known as the “Today” show’s third news anchor, succeeding Frank Blair in 1975. Although Blair had held the job for 22 years, Mr. Wood left after just a year, going into public relations. He stayed in that field until retiring in 2006.
Before taking the “Today” show job, Mr. Wood had anchored the news for WNBC in New York and worked as a correspondent for CBS. For the latter network, he reported on the 1960s civil rights movement, accompanying King on one of his marches.
Mr. Wood also was in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, as part of the CBS team covering Kennedy’s campaign swing through Texas. Mr. Wood had covered a breakfast speech Kennedy made in nearby Fort Worth and snapped a personal photo of the president greeting well-wishers before he left for the Dallas motorcade where he would be fatally shot.
After the president’s departure, Mr. Wood headed to a restaurant for lunch, stopping briefly to check in with fellow correspondent Dan Rather, who was covering the motorcade.
In a remembrance posted on the Reporters’ Notebook Web site, Mr. Wood recalled Rather telling him, “Hold On Lew — don’t go away,” then quickly coming back on the line to say the president had been shot and that he should go to the hospital.
“Which he did,” said Rather, who spoke warmly of Mr. Wood the day after his death.
“He was a workhorse, very steady and reliable, excellent reporter and had good on-camera presence,” Rather said.
Mr. Wood, who received a degree in speech and broadcasting from Purdue University, began his career in radio at WDZ-AM in Decatur, Ill., in 1952. He transitioned to TV a year later, joining WSBT Radio and TV in South Bend, Ind., where he worked as both reporter and cameraman and anchored the evening news.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Wood’s survivors include his wife, Monique; his son, Robert; two other daughters, Carole Gorenflo and Lara Wood; 10 grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.