acooke.jpgAlistair Cooke, the legendary broadcaster who produced the British radio program “Letter From America” for 58 years, died on March 30. Cause of death was not released. He was 95.
Born in Britain and given the name Alfred Cooke, he graduated with a degree in English from Cambridge University. Cooke changed his name to Alistair then traveled to the United States in 1932 to study at Harvard and Yale on a fellowship. Although drama was his first passion, a cross-country trip by car one summer gave him another: storytelling.
Cooke returned to England in 1934 and took a job as a film critic with the BBC. Four years later, he worked as a BBC radio commentator who reported on American affairs, both political and cultural. He even became a U.S. citizen in 1941.
The weekly radio segment, “Letter From America,” launched in 1946. Originally scheduled to run for 13 weeks, the program was so popular with listeners of the BBC World Service that Cooke continued to produce it for more than half a century. Heard by an estimated 22 million listeners around the world, it was the longest running radio broadcast in history. Cooke aired his final dispatch, “Letter No. 2,869,” on March 2.
In addition to his BBC work, Cooke was a correspondent for NBC, The Manchester Guardian and The Guardian newspaper. On television, he served as the host of “Omnibus” from 1952 to 1961, and narrated the NBC documentary series, “America.” From 1971 to 1992, Cooke presented “Masterpiece Theatre” on PBS, an act that was later parodied on “Sesame Street” and “Saturday Night Live.”
For his distinguished broadcasting efforts, Cooke won four Emmy Awards and three George Foster Peabody Awards. He also published 12 books, including the 1973 bestseller “Alistair Cooke’s America.” He was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1973.
Complete Coverage From the BBC