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Broadcaster Remembered

Dec 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Hal Walker, who passed away Nov. 25 at age 70, broke barriers in TV after becoming the first black correspondent at CBS News in 1969.
He came on the scene when one of the biggest stories was the civil rights movement. However, what his friends and colleagues remembered after his memorial in Washington last week was a good and disarming guy, a jack-of-all-trades reporter, and an enthusiastic tennis player.
If he was the recipient of bigoted hate mail-and he was-he didn’t talk about it to his colleagues. If he harbored any anger, it was never apparent even to those who worked most closely with him
Bernie Seabrooks, now unit manager for “CBS Sunday Morning,” recalled a trip to Africa for CBS News with Mr. Walker. “The pace was so much slower, and it used to frustrate me a lot. Hal was the one would calm me down,” said Mr. Seabrooks, who was the first black producer at CBS News.
During the past three years, Mr. Seabrooks talked daily with Mr. Walker, who would quickly turn the conversation about his prostate cancer to Mr. Seabrooks’ problematic knees. “I thought he was winning the battle,” Mr. Seabrooks said. “He was dealing with it in such a positive fashion.”
Mr. Walker first came to the attention of CBS News while he was covering race relations for WTOP-TV in Washington, where he received hate mail and multiple awards. He anchored an hour-long report, “A Dialogue With Whitey,” about the riots in the capital in 1968.
He spent 12 years with CBS News, where his assignments included covering the White House and serving as a foreign correspondent based in Bonn, Germany, beginning in 1977.
When CBS wanted to bring him home from Bonn in 1980, Mr. Walker segued to ABC News. “He fit in anywhere,” recalled ABC News senior VP Bob Murphy, who supervised Mr. Walker during his 15 years with ABC.
After Mr. Walker’s death, “ABC World News Tonight” anchor Peter Jennings said on air: “He loved his job. He loved being overseas. In the best tradition of a foreign correspondent, he was always ready to go somewhere. And he was very good company to boot.”
But unlike many others at ABC News during late President Roone Arledge’s free-spending heyday, Mr. Walker didn’t take advantage of his exotic situation. His expense accounts, Mr. Murphy said, were “never very expensive.”
“He was not the one who was going to be at prominent social events,” Mr. Seabroooks said. “He liked to have a private life and not to be on stage 24 hours a day. He never had pretensions to being a star.”