A nice guy gets a well-deserved honor

By Roy Eaton

Published Thursday, March 17, 2005

It was a great thrill for me last week when my longtime friend and colleague Bob Schieffer of CBS News was honored at Texas Christian University by naming the journalism school the Schieffer School of Journalism.

Bob and I began our news careers at the same little 5,000 watt radio station in Fort Worth, me in the summer of 1956 and he a year later. We were both hired by a wonderful old-time sportscaster named Bill Hightower.

Our auditions were similar. Hightower took me into the station’s production room and turned on a tape recorder and said describe what I saw in the room. He took Bob out on the front porch of the radio station on West Lancaster Street and told him to describe the football stadium, Farrington Field, across the street. We must have done okay, we both got jobs.

Bob wanted to be a journalist from the beginning while I had dreams of being a disc jockey. He was a journalism major and I was a radio-television major. I became a newsman because that was the job at KXOL that my friend Rod Roddy told me about at the end of my freshman year as a Horned Frog.

Bob was recruited by another of our colleagues at the time, TCU journalism student Bruce Neal, who went on to a great career at WBAP radio and later as public relations director for Six Flags over Texas.

Because we were only 18 when we became full-time news chasers at KXOL, Hightower or station manager Earle Fletcher suggested that we all wear snap-brim hats to make us look older. Later they decided we should wear red coveralls so we would look like ambulance drivers and eye witnesses would talk to us more freely.

Needless to say, we all had a great time and did a darned good job of covering the news. Our only competition was a guy named Porter Randall at KFJZ and he rarely left the studio to cover the news.

It was not unusual for us to read a newscast at five-minutes before the hour and when the news was over, rush to the scene of a car wreck or a fire, do an on-the-scene report and then be back at the station in time for the next newscast. The DJ’s always were furious when we stayed away and they had to read the news.

I stayed at KXOL for 10 years, but Bob left shortly after college graduation for military service. When he returned we welcomed him back for a short time, but he soon was hired to replace our friend and mentor Phil Record as the night police reporter at the Star-Telegram.

Phil always called us “electrics” and contended that we didn’t know how to write, but in Schieffer’s case he knew better and went to bat for him at the Star-T.

Bob became the first Texas newspaper reporter to go to Vietnam as a war correspondent. When he returned he went to Channel 5 where another great mentor for us both, James A. Byron, was the news director. From there he went to Washington — first to work as a correspondent for Metromedia and quickly to CBS where he has been for more than 30 years.

Jeannine and I had “down-front” seats for the TCU events and had a wonderful time reminiscing with Bob and his wife Pat, his sister Sharon Mayes who is the upper school principal at St. Vincent’s Episcopal School in Hurst (where Father Ryan Reed, formerly of Wise County, is the dean of the Cathedral) and his brother Tom, former ambassador to Australia and nominated to be ambassador to Japan.

At a dinner-party the night before the celebration, we enjoyed a delightful evening with CBS 11 anchorman Tracy Rowlett and his wife Jill, Phil Record and his wife Pat and TCU executive Larry Lauer and his wife.

The highlight of the event was a “symposium” following the formal dedication ceremony. It was like watching Face the Nation, Meet the Press or Hardball in person.

The panel included a laid-back analysis from NBC’s Tom Brokaw, expert information on the Middle East from Tom Friedman of the New York Times, insight on Washington politics from Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and expert questioning by Jim Lehrer of the News Hour on PBS.

The interaction between the four on a panel moderated by Schieffer was like a dream for a “news junkie” like me. TCU’s aging Ed Landereth Auditorium (where Bob and I graduated in 1959) was packed to the ceiling for both events.

It was great to see author and sports writing great Dan Jenkins chatting with Brokaw over a margarita at Joe T. Garcia’s. The Dallas-Fort Worth media was well represented not only by Rowlett, but by reporters from both major dailies and Channels 5 and 8. It was great to again see Bobbie Wygant, who is a legend at Channel 5 and a “class act” in every way.

The day after the Fort Worth ceremony, it was off to New York for Bob who is taking over the CBS Evening news “temporarily” while the network tries to recover from the Dan Rather debacle.

So, for now, Bob will spend Monday through Friday in New York, fly home to Washington Friday night then host Face the Nation on Sundays. How long that will last is anybody’s guess. But, as Bob told USA Today on the eve of the Evening News takeover, “My wife says that if it lasts very long, we may have to renegotiate our contract.”

Bob said the naming honor from TCU was “the nicest thing that ever happened to me.” “I want young people thinking of a career in journalism to understand how much fun it is. Yes, a journalist can do a lot of good. Yes, a journalist can right a long of wrongs. But it sure is fun and as far as I’m concerned, that should be a major factor in deciding how you want to spend your life.”

The honor for Bob is one of those occasions when nice guys finish first.