Kendrick, Alexander

views updated

Kendrick, Alexander

(b. c. 1911 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; d.l7 May 1991 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), print and broadcast journalist and author who served as CBS bureau chief in London and was known for his reporting of international events in the World War II and postwar years.

Kendrick was likely born in 1911, although sources are not definitive about the year. His parents were Russian immigrants who never learned to read or write English. Kendrick was one of four children; he had two brothers and a sister. He grew up in South Philadelphia and attended school there, graduating with honors from Central High School in about 1930.

Kendrick then worked for the Philadelphia Public Ledger for two years. After it folded, he moved to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which assigned him to its Washington bureau. At one point, all three Kendrick brothers worked for the Inquirer; one of them, Richard, was employed there for thirty-five years. In the late 1930s Kendrick won $4,000 in the Irish Sweepstakes and took a year off from the Inquirer to travel around the world. On this trip, he worked for a time on the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. On vacation in Russia, he met his future wife, Sarah Kunitz, a New York librarian. They had no children.

In 1940, while he was still employed with the Inquirer, Kendrick won a Nieman fellowship to Harvard for the 1940–1941 academic year. The recipients of this prestigious award were allowed to select from any of the available courses of study. Kendrick took classes in government, economics, and history. Other journalism awards made to Kendrick during his career came from the Overseas Press Club, the National Press Club, and the Society of Professional Journalists.

At the beginning of World War II, Kendrick covered the infamous Murmansk Run, the route of Allied freighters attempting to deliver supplies to the Soviet Union. He also reported war and political news from Russia. In August 1945 he was assigned to Washington, where he covered the end of the war. Subsequently, he reported from Vienna on Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Kendrick met the CBS vice president Edward R. Murrow in Rome soon after the war. He then joined Murrow as a radio and television correspondent at CBS, an affiliation that lasted until his retirement in 1975. In this capacity, Kendrick traveled widely, reporting on postwar politics and on the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. He was named London bureau chief and served in this capacity until 1965.

At this point Kendrick returned to Washington and continued reporting. The year 1969 marked the appearance of his biography, Prime Time: The Life of Edward R. Murrow, a thoroughly readable and authoritative source. Prime Time is enhanced by Kendrick’s familiarity with his subject and by his understanding of Murrow’s philosophy of communication. He illustrates Murrow’s insistence that, while the media made it possible to distribute the message, that message had to be worth dispensing: “Otherwise, [Murrow] said, ’all you have is a lot of wires and lights in a box.’” The biography also presents Murrow’s fascinating confrontation with Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, the U.S. senator who dominated the 1950s with his accusations of Communist infiltration of American institutions. Eric Goldman in the New York Times Book Review called the biography a “richly informed, incisive, pungent book, admiring and affectionate but not forgetting the Murrow canon that candor is a high form of devotion.”

In 1974 Kendrick’s second book, The Wound Within: America in the Vietnam Years, 1945-1974, appeared. This analysis presents an account of both the war and the war’s effects on the United States. Quincy Howe, in a review of the book in Commonweal in 1975, wrote that The Wound Within“expands instant news analysis into instant history, bringing to bear on the recent past the immediacy of personal experience and on the immediate present the perspective of the veteran journalist.”

Dan Rather, in his autobiography The Camera Never Blinks: Adventures of a TV Journalist (1977), written with Mickey Herskowitz, presents Kendrick as a man and a journalist of integrity. Rather was sent to London in 1965 to succeed Kendrick as bureau chief. Fred Friendly, president of CBS, made it clear that Rather would be following in a line of excellence that began with Ed Murrow and continued with Kendrick. Rather characterized Kendrick as an avid and careful reader who would never move on a story until he had done his homework. He also described his predecessor as kind and helpful, and as a “classic” foreign correspondent, a “straight talker, even blunt.”

Kendrick retired in 1975, living in Philadelphia. He continued to keep abreast of international politics and became a staunch Phillies baseball fan. His wife, Sarah, died in 1981. Kendrick died a decade later at Hahnemann University Hospital, after suffering a heart attack.

In this day of “fast fare” reporting and instant biographies, Kendrick stands for journalistic quality. Dan Rather named him as one of Edward R. Murrow’s “scholar-correspondents,” a thoroughly prepared and appropriately objective reporter.

Biographical information on Alexander Kendrick’s life and career is not abundant. The best discussion of him from both a personal and professional standpoint is in Rather’s The Camera Never Blinds (1977). Reviews of Prime Time are in the New York Times Book Review (28 Sept. 1969) and Times Literary Supplement (14 May 1970). Reviews of The Wound Within are in the New York Times (24 Aug. 1974) and Commonweal (17 Jan. 1975). Obituaries are in the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer (19 May 1991).

Mary Boyles