Entertainment & Arts

Richard Wagner Dies: Longtime CBS News Correspondent Was 85

Richard Wagner, whose three-decade career as a correspondent for CBS News included covering the war in Vietnam and numerous other conflicts around the world, has died. He was 85.

His wife, Donna Lewis-Wagner, said that he died at his home in Charlottesville, VA. No cause of death was given.

During the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Wagner appeared frequently on CBS Evening News when Walter Cronkite and then Dan Rather were in the anchor chair.

Starting at CBS News in 1964, Wagner was based for a time in Saigon, as he was among the correspondents who covered the war in Vietnam, at a time when the military had yet to establish the parameters of access to military operations and combat zones.

On a podcast in 2018 with other correspondents who covered the war, Wagner recalled reporting from a combat zone being “very scary.” “I recall a situation once where we were pinned down, couldn’t move, and then the barrage lifted almost as quickly as it had begun, and I wanted to swiftly stand up now that it was safe and do a stand up…I found that my hand was shaking so much that I really couldn’t do it. It affected me so much that I couldn’t do what I had to do until I collected myself.”

He also was based in London, Hong Kong and Johannesburg, as he covered the troubles in Northern Ireland and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. He also reported extensively on events in Central America in the 1970s and 80s. In 1984, he was near El Suchitoto, El Salvador with Newsweek photographer John Hoagland when Hoagland was killed in a crossfire. Wagner won the Sigma Delta Chi award for his radio reporting on that day.

Wagner also won the Overseas Press Club Ben Grauer Award in 1987 for radio spot news reporting from abroad, as he covered the events in Baghdad that led to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and then the response of the U.S. and allies, Operation Desert Storm. He also covered Ayatollah Khomeini return from exile to Iran in 1979, the aftermath of the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, and the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos as leader of the Philippines in 1986.

Wagner also was based in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle, as he covered national politics and other events, including the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island and the Challenger explosion. He also became CBS News’ first health and science correspondent, and won an Ohio State University Radio-Television award for a CBS Radio documentary on DNA. He left CBS News in 1993.

Wagner was a native of Boston, who received a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and attended its School of Medicine in 1958. He served with the U.S. Army at its Biological Warfare Research Center at Fort Detrick, MD, from 1959 to 1962.

In addition to his wife, Wagner is survived by his daughter, Kerry Wagner.

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