Bill Plante, the Emmy Award-winning CBS News correspondent and anchor who covered everything from the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War to the presidential elections of Ronald Reagan through Barack Obama, died last week at the age of 84.
Mr. Plante’s assignments took him to some of the most pivotal events in history, including the “Bloody Sunday” march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, and the fall of the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon in 1975.
William Madden Plante was born on Jan. 14, 1938, in Chicago. He grew up in Rogers Park and attended Loyola Academy and Loyola University, graduating from the latter in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in business and humanities. A journalism fellowship at Columbia University soon followed.
In 1964, Mr. Plante began his career at CBS News as a reporter. He often cited legendary newsmen David Brinkley and Edward R. Murrow as his inspirations for pursuing a career in journalism. In 1966, he returned to Chicago, working as a Midwest network correspondent for CBS for more than a decade. In 1976, Mr. Plante moved to the network’s Washington, D.C., bureau, where 10 years later he would begin his tenure as its White House correspondent, a post he held for 30 years until his retirement in 2016.
That same year, Mr. Plante returned to his alma mater, where he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by Loyola’s School of Communication. The school also established the Bill Plante Chair of Leadership and Media Integrity professorship in honor its esteemed alum.
In his address to the graduates, Mr. Plante advised: “You grew up in a world wired for instant communication. … You’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope and Yik Yak. Find time to step away from it all each day, to set it aside for a while and spend that time in live conversation or contemplation.”
Jill Geisler, the current Bill Plante Chair of Leadership and Media Integrity professor at Loyola University, said Plante lived up to his reputation as a gentleman along with being a powerhouse reporter.
“He was just a legend,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times in an interview following his passing.
Geisler met Mr. Plante after being appointed the inaugural Bill Plante chair in 2015. From there, they went on to plan events and programs surrounding media integrity and fighting misinformation at the university.
“He had a quiet confidence in the importance of journalism in a democracy, almost a thoughtful and steely determination that good journalism would always prevail against misinformation,” Geisler said.
Mr. Plante was “the gentleman everyone always described him to be. ...
“He was a person who had a beautiful voice, an extraordinary authoritative presence, but that wasn’t what was important to him... it was about the story, not about the storyteller,” Geisler said.
Mr. Plante is survived by his wife, Robin Smith, his sons, brothers, grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Contributing: Sun-Times staff reporter Mary Norkol