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In Memoriam: Joseph Wershba, 1920-2011

The Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin pays tribute to Joseph Wershba, a broadcast television pioneer and eminent CBS News producer. Wershba's career spanned more than 50 years, during which he produced some of the most significant television news programs of the twentieth century, including See It Now, CBS Reports, and 60 Minutes. Wershba died at the age of 90 on May 14, 2011, in Long Island.

Detail of Joe Warshba with members of crew working on a 60 Minutes story.

Joseph Warshba (center) with members of film crew during production of a 60 Minutes episode, n.d. Wershba (Joseph and Shirley) Papers, 1936-2001. The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Born on August 19, 1920, in New York, Wershba began his broadcasting career in 1944 as a radio news writer for CBS Radio. He joined CBS television in 1952, where he worked with Edward R. Murrow to create some of the most powerful newscasts of See it Now." He and Murrow were especially effective in bringing to light the abuses of the McCarthy era, illustrating how the lives of innocent people were destroyed by the wrongful accusations of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Their work has been credited with helping end McCarthy's career. After a ten-year interim as a free-lance writer, producer, and columnist Wershba returned to CBS, where he applied his skills in investigative journalism and production to CBS news specials and to series such as CBS Reports and 60 Minutes. He produced dozens of segments for 60 Minutes on topics ranging from the American family to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Vietnam War. Wershba worked with such other renowned journalists as Walter Cronkite and Morley Safer. During the 1970s, while working with Safer, he won Emmys for stories on the Gulf of Tonkin incident and Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek. Joseph Wershba retired from CBS in 1988 and formed a production company with his wife Shirley.

In 1996, he and his wife, Shirley, also a CBS News producer with whom he collaborated on numerous assignments, donated their archives to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The Joseph and Shirley Wershba Papers document their careers covering political and social life in the United States between 1936 and 1993. The collection consists of audiotapes, videocassettes, correspondence, transcripts, printed material, newspaper clippings, notes, scripts and drafts, photographs, motion picture film, press releases, research material, and ephemera. Some of the prominent individuals represented in the collection are Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and John Henry Faulk. The Joseph and Shirley Wershba Papers are part of the Briscoe Center's outstanding news media holdings that include the archives of CBS newsmen Walter Cronkite, Sig Mickelson, and Robert Trout, as well as photojournalists Flip Schulke, David Hume Kennerly, and Eddie Adams.

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