Bernard Birnbaum, CBS News Producer, longtime Larchmont resident died Thursday, November 26 at the age of 89. Born October 18, 1920, in Brooklyn, NY, Bernie Birnbaum moved to Larchmont in 1956. He was a World War II veteran, working as a combat cameraman for the Motion Picture Unit of the Army Air Corps.
A producer for CBS News, Mr. Birnbaum won seven Emmy Awards and many other journalistic prizes. He began working at CBS in 1951, working as a producer on all the major news programs, from the CBS EVENING NEWS to SUNDAY MORNING. Mr. Birnbaum covered a remarkable list of the major events of the 20th century. He loved television news and CBS and taught many of his colleagues the business of news production. He always said he was so lucky to have a career that allowed him a chance for lifelong learning. As a producer, Mr. Birnbaum worked with many of the legendary CBS News correspondents, including Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Charles Collingwood and Charles Kuralt. He used his strengths as a talented photographer, director and brilliant storyteller to produce hundreds of television news documentary programs.
Mr. Birnbaum worked on the first CBS EVENING NEWS WITH WALTER CRONKITE, the first half-hour daily news broadcast. Mr. Birnbaum was dispatched by Cronkite to Dallas in November 1963 to cover the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Reporting on the Kennedy Assassination became a lifelong interest, resulting in many primetime broadcasts. He covered Vietnam extensively, with seven trips. Following the fall of Saigon, he helped bring Vietnamese colleagues to the U.S. He and Charles Kuralt were close colleagues for over 30 years. Their 1964 broadcast, “Christmas in Appalachia,” on the plight of unemployed miners in eastern Kentucky, brought in an unsolicited $70,000 from viewers to CBS, which some observers have suggested helped shape President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty program.
Birnbaum was graduated from New York University in 1949 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Motion Pictures. He was in the first class of Fulbright Scholars to study cinema in Rome, Italy, where he worked as publicity photographer on the film “Quo Vadis.”
Mr. Birnbaum’s empathy and curiosity made him loved by the people he profiled, his neighbors and colleagues. A regular at Manor Beach, he gave lectures to local community groups, loved Italy and the Italian language, studied Yiddish, and played the cello. He never missed an opportunity to tell a story, and began every day with a thorough read of The New York Times.
Mr. Birnbaum is survived by daughters Deborah and Amy Birnbaum, sons-in-laws John Kocay and Bernard Furnival, and four grandchildren, Sam, Emily, Eloise and Amelia. His wife of 55 years, Ronnie Birnbaum, passed away in 2005.
The funeral will be held Tuesday, December 1st at 1:00pm at Larchmont Temple, 75 Larchmont Avenue, Larchmont, NY. JOHN J. FOX FUNERAL HOME, Inc. 2080 Boston Post Road Larchmont, NY 10538 (914) 834-0144 www.jjffh.com