Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

BROKAW, TOM (b. 1940)

Tom Brokaw

View larger

Tom Brokaw, editor, author, and TV anchor, was born in Webster, South Dakota, on February 6, 1940. Brokaw's parents belonged to the generation that would later be featured in his 1998 best-seller, The Greatest Generation. During World War II his father, Red Brokaw, was an operator of construction machinery and snowplows on a small air force base at Igloo in western South Dakota. His mother, Jean, was a typical 1940s housewife. Later the family moved to Yankton, South Dakota, where Brokaw worked at a local radio station, KYNT. He graduated from Yankton High School, where he met his wife, Meredith Auld, a former Miss South Dakota.

Brokaw attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City but later finished his college degree at the University of South Dakota at Vermillion. His first professional job on television was in Sioux City, Iowa, with KTIV-TV. From 1962 to 1965 he worked in Omaha for kmtv. Then in 1965 he joined WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia. NBC News scouts liked the young investigative reporter's coverage of the civil rights movement, and in 1973 he was hired as nbc White House correspondent. He became cohost of the Today show in 1976, a position he held until 1981. He was then appointed anchor of the NBC Nightly News.

Brokaw's coverage of world and national news has included the signing on the White House lawn of the historic Middle East peace agreement, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and human-rights abuses in Tibet as well as the first exclusive U.S. one-on-one interview with Mikhail Gorbachev and an interview with the Dalai Lama. He was the first anchor to report from the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and from the scene of the 1996 TWA Flight 800 tragedy. In 1999 he did the first North American television interview with Russian prime minister Yevgeny Primakov and was the first of the network evening news anchors to travel to Tirana, Albania, during the NATO air strikes in the former Yugoslavia.

Awards for his investigative reporting are numerous. They include a Peabody Award for his report "To Be an American" and Emmy Awards for his "China in Crisis" special reports and for his reports on the 1992 floods in the Midwest. He received the Dennis Kauff Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism from Boston University and the Lowell Thomas Award from Marist College. He was inducted into Broadcasting and Cable TV's Hall of Fame in 1977. He is also a recipient of the Neuharth Award, presented by the Freedom Forum every fall at the University of South Dakota. The Tom Brokaw Award is presented yearly to an outstanding South Dakota media person.

M. L. Cornette University of South Dakota

Brokaw, Tom. The Greatest Generation. New York: Random House, 1998.

Previous: Brinkley, John Richard | Contents | Next: Calgary Herald

XML: egp.med.007.xml