Walter Lister, a long-term Larchmont resident, newspaperman with the New York Herald Tribune for 17 years and producer with CBS News for 25 years, died on December 30, 2009.
He was born in Lakewood, Ohio on November 20, 1921. His father was a journalist and editor with the New York Post, Philadelphia Record and Philadelphia Bulletin and the co-author of the Broadway play, “Spread Eagle.” His mother was an elementary school teacher. After his parents’ divorce in the 1920s, Walter Lister lived for several years with his grandparents in Ohio. Later he moved with his mother to Hempstead, NY, attending schools from third grade through high school.
Mr. Lister graduated from Brown University in February of 1943 with a degree in English. He took wartime courses in map reading and photography.
He served in the Army Air Corps from March 1943 through September 1945. He trained as a P-51 pilot, sailed to England early in 1945, flew 24 missions over Europe and earned four air medals. He was scheduled for rest and recreation in the United States en route to the Pacific when the A-bombs were dropped. At the end of the war, he was on the Queen Elizabeth with the first troops to arrive in New York after VJ-Day.
After the war, Mr. Lister was hired as a reporter on the New York Herald Tribune. His assignments included ship news, religion, labor, transit system and City Hall. He was the night city editor before becoming Chicago bureau chief in the 1950s, covering the Midwest – politics, financial news, football and the school integration crisis in Little Rock. He conducted exclusive interviews with black students about to enter all-white Central High School. As bureau chief in Moscow, 1961-1962, he filed dispatches on the first man in earth orbit, Khrushchev-Kennedy in Vienna, features on Central Asia and life in the Soviet Union.
During the long newspaper strike of 1962-1963, Mr. Lister left the Herald Tribune for CBS News. There, he was the special correspondent in Moscow and Paris in 1964-1965. He joined Les Midgley’s Special Reports in 1965, where he worked with correspondents, wrote scripts and research reports, conducted on-camera interviews and directed camera crews. His projects ranged from the Warren Report, Vietnam, lost H-bombs and space launchings to Watergate, school busing, American justice and Earth Day.
In 1973, Mr. Lister became producer/writer of “In the News,” a CBS Saturday news brief for young viewers. He also produced occasional 30-minute specials for young viewers under the title, “What’s It All About?” Subjects included energy, the CIA, impeachment, inflation, the Middle East, elections, wild animals and monsters.
Mr. Lister earned numerous awards for his television work: four Emmy’s a Peabody, two Ohio State awards and a dozen Emmy nominations.
He retired from CBS News in 1988, eventually going to Prodigy, the online service in White Plains that once had about 10 times the membership of America Online.
Following a second retirement in 1996, Mr. Lister volunteered at the International Executive Service Corps in Stamford, first as editor of a new monthly employee newsletter and later as the editor of a quarterly publication, IESC News.
Mr. Lister is survived by his beloved wife, Marion Hess, who he married in 1965. The couple first met in Moscow; she was on vacation from Newsweek.
He was the loving father of Wendy Root, and cherished his four grandchildren: Megan, Griffin, Kyle and Lindsay. He was the dear brother of Peter and John.
Funeral service is Tuesday, January 5, 1:00 pm at Larchmont Avenue Church, 60 Forest Park Avenue in Larchmont, NY.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to:
CUNY Graduate School of Journalism Student Scholarship Fund
Attn: Future Journalists Fund in Honor of Walter Lister
219 West 40th Street
New York, New York 10018