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In Memoriam: Andy Rooney, 1919 – 2011

Briscoe Center Executive Director Don Carleton and Andy Rooney tour an exhibit in the center's Sid Richardson Hall, ca. 2000.
Briscoe Center Executive Director Don Carleton and Andy Rooney tour an exhibit in the center's Sid Richardson Hall, ca. 2000.

The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History mourns the death of legendary CBS writer, commentator and journalist Andy Rooney.

A newspaper columnist, author of 16 books, and writer and producer of numerous CBS News special reports, Rooney was best known for "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney, " his first-person essays that concluded the CBS news magazine "60 Minutes" for 34 seasons. He was awarded the Writers Guild Award for Best Script of the Year six times, more than any other writer in the history of television. He received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 2003.

"I am greatly saddened to learn of Andy Rooney's death," said Dr. Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. "We have lost a pioneer in the history of television and one of the most perceptive American social critics to have ever graced the air waves. He was a fount of practical common sense and a speaker to truth in a time when those qualities have become rare in the media. I had the special good fortune of being a personal friend, as well as being among his legions of fans and admirers."

The Briscoe Center is the designated home of Rooney's professional and personal papers, which will be an invaluable primary source not only for documenting Rooney's career, but also for research on the history of early network television and for the history of CBS's famed program "60 Minutes." The Andy Rooney Papers are part of the Briscoe Center's News Media Archives, one of the most comprehensive collections of archival material related to the history of the news media. Rooney's papers join those of many of his colleagues at CBS News, including Walter Cronkite, Robert Trout, Sig Mickelson, Dan Rather, Harry Reasoner, Morley Safer, and Joseph and Shirley Wershba.

Carleton interviewed Rooney in 1999 for a project sponsored by the Television Arts and Sciences Foundation. Carleton remembers: "As anyone who knew him personally can testify, Andy was the same person off camera as he was on camera. The Andy Rooney you saw on '60 Minutes' was the same Andy Rooney who visited with you over a drink or at a private dinner. And with Andy, it didn't matter if you were his friend or not; if he caught you dispensing verbal pablum during a conversation, he wasn't shy about pointing it out.

"Near the end of our three-hour interview, I asked him how he would like to be remembered — one of the set questions that we had to ask all of the project's interviewees. It also was a question that I wanted to take back as soon as it left my lips. With a straight face, Andy looked me in the eye and answered, 'I would like to be remembered as Barbara Walters.' And then he frowned and said, 'Jeez, Don, that's a Barbara Walters question: "How would I like to be remembered!"' After the interview was over and with the camera turned off, Andy smiled and said, 'Despite the dumb question, Don, I'm still giving you my papers.'" (Note: the interview can be seen at www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/andy-rooney)

Born Jan. 14, 1919, in Albany, N.Y., Rooney attended Colgate University until he was drafted into the Army in 1941. He was assigned to write for Stars and Stripes, where he met fellow correspondent Cronkite, who became a lifelong colleague and friend. He was awarded a Bronze Star for reporting under fire during the battle of Saint-Lô in Normandy.

Rooney joined CBS in 1949 as a writer for numerous entertainment shows and CBS News public-affairs broadcasts. He was asked to write scripts for "The Twentieth Century," a documentary series narrated by Cronkite, and shortly thereafter began a longtime collaboration with Reasoner and, eventually, "60 Minutes."

Rooney wrote a national newspaper column for Tribune Media Services, published articles in major magazines, and authored 16 books. He was awarded the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.

Dr. Carleton and the entire staff of the Briscoe Center extend their sincere and heartfelt condolences to the Rooney family.

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