Ben Silver, a Peabody Award-winning CBS television news reporter and journalism professor, father to six and grandfather to eleven, died from complications of Parkinson's disease May 2, 2012, at his home in St. Louis Park, Minn. He was 85.
From the late 1950s to the early 1970s, Silver covered many of the nation's major events, including Ted Kennedy's car accident on Chappaquiddick, campus unrest, race rioting in Detroit, Newark and Chicago, school integration, Fidel Castro's takeover of Cuba, the Cuban missile crisis, the launch of the nation's space program, and two national political conventions. It was the heyday of television journalism, CBS was in the No. 1 slot, and night after night Silver reported from a different part of the country on some of the network's top stories. When no other reporters could get them to talk, Silver landed exclusive interviews with former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson and former head of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover.
Before joining CBS News, Silver was with WCKT-TV in Miami from 1957 to 1966 where he reported from the former Soviet Union and throughout Latin America. In 1959 he was jailed for a week, sometimes at gunpoint, during then-Cuban President Fulgencio Batista's regime. In 1960 Silver won a Peabody Award, television journalism's highest honor, for his Latin American coverage.
While covering the Chicago riots for CBS, Silver met his future wife, Linda Rude, at a club. He spotted the young, blue-eyed beauty wearing a nursing uniform and asked her to dance. The two dated long distance and married a year later. Together they had three children. Silver also had three children with his first wife.
After six years, Silver left CBS for Arizona State University, where he became a journalism professor. He and his wife had two young sons by then, and he wanted to spend more time with his family. The only thing Silver was more devoted to than journalism was his wife and family.
He continued to cover stories for CBS from Arizona for a few years, including John McCain's return from North Vietnam, where he was held as a prisoner of war for six years. Silver called it the happiest story of his career.
After 18 years, Silver retired from ASU in 1990, and was named professor emeritus. He focused on travel and a growing brood of grandchildren, to whom he was known as "Pop Pops." He remained involved at ASU, and at his alma mater, the University of Iowa, establishing broadcast journalism scholarships at both schools.
Benjamin Silver was born March 25, 1927, at home in the Bronx, N.Y. He was the seventh of eight children of Samuel and Rosa Silver, both Russian Jewish immigrants.
At 17, Silver dropped out of high school to join the Army in honor of his oldest brother, Morris, who had died fighting shortly after landing at Normandy. It wasn't until college that Silver discovered a love for reading and learning. On the GI bill, Silver earned a bachelor's in speech from the University of Iowa.
He had intended to go to law school, but while working the potato line at the university's cafeteria, a friend who passed through regularly convinced him to pursue journalism. After graduation, Silver moved back to New York, met and married his first wife and worked for his father, managing his apartment buildings.
But Silver said he never wanted to be a businessman. He wanted to be a journalist, specifically on CBS. He returned to the Midwest, first at Northwestern, then to Iowa, where he earned his master's in journalism.
Silver landed his first job out of school at KTIV-TV in Sioux City, Iowa, where he persuaded a judge to allow the first television camera in a courtroom in this country during a murder trial. The station won an Emmy Award for his effort.