Bernard Shaw, longtime CNN anchor and Chicago native, dies at 82
Shaw, who served in the Marines, worked as a reporter at CBS and ABC News before taking on the chief anchor role at CNN when the network began in 1980.
NEW YORK — Bernard Shaw, a chief CNN anchor and Chicago native best remembered for calmly reporting the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991 as missiles flew around him in Baghdad, has died. He was 82.
He died of pneumonia Wednesday at a hospital in Washington, D. C., according to Tom Johnson, CNN’s former chief executive.
Shaw was at CNN for 20 years and was known for remaining cool under pressure. That was a hallmark of his Baghdad coverage when the U.S. led its invasion of Iraq in 1991 to liberate Kuwait, with CNN airing stunning footage of airstrikes and anti-aircraft fire in the capital city.
“In all of the years of preparing to being anchor, one of the things I strove for was to be able to control my emotions in the midst of hell breaking out,” Shaw said in a 2014 interview with NPR. “And I personally feel that I passed my stringent test for that in Baghdad.”
Born in Chicago, Shaw attended Carter Elementary School on the South Side. In the 2014 interview, Shaw recalled being in school and being able to read at the age of 3.
“It was a very tough program. And Mrs. Robinson was the teacher. And of course, those were the days where there was no air-conditioning, and this class always started at 2 o’clock, after lunch,” Shaw said. “I would go home, two and a half blocks from the school, have lunch, come back. And of course, it’s 85 degrees outside, it is hot. And being a little boy, I go into this class. The windows are open, but there’s no air coming through. So what did I do? I nodded off. And I was awakened with a thunderous slap across my head, and those were in the days when teachers could do that.”
Shaw attended the University of Illinois at Chicago in the mid-1960s. A scholarship was established there in his name in 1991. He spoke on campus in 2017 at a scholarship and awards luncheon.
“I come from our nation’s capital where cherry blossoms are spring’s kisses and where the atmosphere is so peaceful,” he joked. “Even the birds have their own special tweet.”
He also talked about the importance of donors.
“Too many times the blunt reality of hardship spits in the faces of some very talented students. Donors must never ever deter or suffocate a fired-up and evolving mind,” he said.
He served in the U.S. Marines and worked as a reporter at CBS and ABC News before taking on the chief anchor role at CNN when the network began in 1980.
He moderated a presidential debate in 1988 and covered protests in China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. But his striking on-the-scene work in Baghdad, with correspondents Peter Arnett and John Holliman, was instrumental in putting CNN on the map.
At that time, it was the only cable news network, and broadcast outlets at ABC, CBS and NBC dominated television news.
“Bernard Shaw exemplified excellence in his life,” Johnson said. “He will be remembered as a fierce advocate of responsible journalism.”
CNN’s current chief executive, Chris Licht, paid tribute to Shaw as a CNN original who made appearances on the network as recently as last year to provide commentary.
Shaw left the business at age 61. He told NPR that despite everything he did in journalism, because of all of the things he missed with his family while working, “I don’t think it was worth it.”
Contributing: Stefano Esposito, Sun-Times staff reporter