Nick Charles dies; first CNN sports anchor
By Matt Schudel,
Nick Charles, a onetime Washington sportscaster who became CNN’s first sports anchor in 1980, died June 18 of bladder cancer at his home in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 64.
Mr. Charles began broadcasting at CNN on the news network’s first day, June 1, 1980.
“In those early days, when I came back to work each Monday,” Mr. Charles told The Washington Post in 1986, “I wasn’t sure if the station would still be there or if it would be a dry cleaning store.”
For years, he was teamed with Fred Hickman on “Sports Tonight,” a nightly roundup that challenged and often topped ESPN in the ratings.
“Our biggest problem in the beginning was finding credibility,” Mr. Charles told The Post in 2000. “I’d call people and say ‘this is Nick Charles from CNN’ and they’d hang up on me. They thought we were a lending institution or were trying to sell them something.”
Mr. Charles anchored “Sports Tonight” 17 years, then had his own show, “Page One with Nick Charles,” before leaving CNN in 2001.
Mr. Charles anchored Winter Olympic coverage for the TNT network in 1992 and 1994 and was co-host of the network’s Goodwill Games in the 1980s and 1990s. He covered most of the leading sports events around the world, including Super Bowls, the Kentucky Derby and the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
He was probably best known, however, for his analysis and commentary of boxing. He interviewed former heavyweight champions Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson and, after leaving CNN, was a boxing commentator on the Showtime network until 2009.
Nicholas Charles Nickeas was born June 30, 1946, in Chicago and was a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. He was a taxi driver before beginning his broadcast career in 1970 in Springfield, Ill.
In the early 1970s, he worked at Baltimore’s WJZ-TV before becoming a sports anchor for WRC-TV (Channel 4) in Washington.
“What too few people realize is that [Mr. Charles] works as hard as any local sportscaster in the country,” The Post’s Ken Denlinger wrote in 1979. “[Glen] Brenner (of WUSA Channel 9) and Charles gave the area its best mix of entertainment and information in recent memory.”
After WRC fired him in 1979, Mr. Charles moved to Atlanta, where CNN was being launched.
“We did our shows on a shoestring,” he told The Post in 2000. “But we always got it done, and we had a great sense of adventure doing it. “
Mr. Charles, who was half-Sicilian and half-Greek, became almost as famous for his good looks as for his polished broadcast delivery. People magazine once named him one of the most handsome men in America.
Mr. Charles had three children from his first two marriages, which ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 13 years, Cory Azumbrado Charles, a onetime international producer for CNN; and a 5-year-old daughter from his third marriage.