NEW YORK -- Charles Kuralt, 62, the folksy CBS news reporter who chronicled the offbeat and endearing as he traveled U.S. highways and byways for his "On the Road" reports, died July 4 at a hospital in New York.

He died as a result of complications from lupus, an inflammatory disease that can affect the skin, joints, kidneys and nervous system.

Mr. Kuralt, a balding, pudgy, and intrepid traveler, logged as many as 50,000 miles a year inside his motor home, scouring the country for rarely seen glimpses of Americana.

Over the years, his travels enabled him to find off-the-beaten-path stories about features such as a school for unicyclists, horse-trading and a gas station-poetry factory. He interviewed professional wrestlers, a 104-year-old entertainer who performed in nursing homes, lumberjacks, whittlers and farmers.

"He had just touched something that audiences responded to," CBS colleague Charles Osgood said this morning. "If we could think of something better to do, we'd do it. But nobody can."

Retired CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite called Mr. Kuralt "one of the truly, greatly talented people in television." He told a Boston radio station that Mr. Kuralt "represented much that is the best of America. He loved the country, loved traveling it. He loved what he would never call the little people."

Mr. Kuralt joined CBS News in 1957 as a writer after working as a reporter and columnist for the Charlotte (N.C.) News. He became a correspondent in 1959 and later became host of "CBS News Sunday Morning" and his acclaimed "On the Road with Charles Kuralt."

He retired from the Sunday program three years ago, telling his audience, "I aim to do some traveling and reading and writing." But earlier this year, he ended his retirement to be host of the syndicated "An American Moment" -- a thrice-weekly series of 90-second slices of Americana -- and for the CBS cable show "I Remember," a weekly one-hour examination of a significant news story of the last 30 years.

Winner of three Peabody awards and 10 Emmys, Mr. Kuralt also wrote several books: "To The Top of the World," "Dateline America," "On the Road with Charles Kuralt," "Southerners," "North Carolina Is My Home" and "A Life on the Road."

In 1981, he received the George Polk Memorial Award for national television reporting and was named Broadcaster of the Year in 1985 by the International Radio-Television Society.

Mr. Kuralt, who was born in Wilmington, N.C., was the son of a social worker and a teacher. His skills as a writer became evident early, when he won an American Legion essay contest, winning a trip to Washington and a meeting with President Harry S. Truman.

It was Edward R. Murrow, the legendary CBS reporter, whose voice on the radio inspired Kuralt to try journalism. Mr. Kuralt edited the student newspaper at the University of North Carolina, where he graduated in 1955. He won the 1956 Ernie Pyle Memorial Award for his offbeat, human interest columns -- an interest that served him well after his switch to television.

Kuralt displayed his unique storytelling skills in one of his first assignments as a Charlotte newspaper reporter -- covering a parade.

"He noticed a young kid, just about 2 feet high," said Richard Cole, dean of the the UNC-Chapel Hill journalism school. "The kid was looking at the parade through the legs of the people in front of him. So Charles got down on his knees and wrote a story about how the parade appeared to that young kid."

After joining CBS, he quickly impressed his bosses, with one describing Mr. Kuralt as "the next Ed Murrow." The self-deprecating Mr. Kuralt dismissed such praise as "ridiculous."

He moved quickly from rewrite to on-air correspondent, covering the 1960 presidential campaign before taking over as head of CBS's newly established Latin America bureau and eventually became a roving correspondent.

He did four tours in Vietnam covering the war, and visited "all the tropical trouble stops," he once said. But after bouncing around the world, Mr. Kuralt decided in 1967 that he wanted out of hard news and its cutthroat competition.

"I was always worried that some NBC man was sneaking behind my back getting better stories," he said later. In 1967, accompanied by a three-man crew, he began a three-month trial run of "On the Road." It immediately struck a nerve.

Part of his appeal was his rumpled everyman look. "I'd rather look like {CBS anchorman Dan} Rather," he once acknowledged. "Of course, who wouldn't?"

Survivors include his wife, two daughters, a brother, a sister and three grandsons.