Born on Monday, June 25, 1911 in Charleroi, Pennsylvania (about two dozen miles south of Pittsburgh), Charles Clifford Shaw was an outstanding news broadcaster. Stationed in Europe by CBS, he worked with the legendary Edward R. Murrow during the Second World War.
In October of 1946, Shaw started working for WCAU Radio here in Philadelphia. In 1952, he became the stations' news director.
Preceding Murrow, Shaw was one of the first broadcasters to speak out against McCarthyism. Before Castro came to power in 1959, Shaw secretly traveled to the southern part of the Cuban isle and met with the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul. A lengthy interview was published in 1958 in the Evening Bulletin. In 1961, Shaw won first prize for outstanding commentary from the Pennsylvania Associated Press Broadcasters.
During the latter time of the Channel 10 TV series, "Mr. and Mrs." with Gene and Joan Crane, Charles Shaw was their newsman. The Crane's son, David, was the creator and executive producer of the TV series "Friends."
After leaving the WCAU stations in 1962, Charles Shaw became the editor of the Bucks County Gazette in New Hope. It was during this time that Shaw talked author-icon James Michener to pen book reviews from the New Hope paper. He later worked for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin during the seventies.
In the October 11, 1946 issue of "New at 'CAU," a story on the first page announces that Charles Shaw was coming to WCAU. It says:
The past three years have wrought many changes in Europe. There is no sense in recounting to WCAU employees all the events leading up to the Nazi surrender in Europe, the actual surrender, and Allied attempts to write the peace in the year and a half just past. Starting, Monday, October 14th, from 7:45 pm to 8 am, WCAU listeners, however, will have an opportunity to take from one who knows - - Charles C. Shaw. He was there.
In 1943, Mr. Shaw was assigned to the London office of C.B.S. and has been heard on the air many times since. He was associated with Edward R. Murrow and Larry Lesueur in the London headquarters of C.B.S. Two weeks after D-Day, he went to France with General Bradley’s First Army. Two weeks later found him transferred to General Patton’s Third Army upon activation of the outfit. He was with Patton during the sweep through Brittany into Paris. On the sweep, he was riding in a jeep which collided with a tank - - the result being death for Tom Treanor, Los Angeles newspaperman, and a broken leg for Shaw. He (Shaw) was trying to get to Paris of the troops.
He returned to London for recuperation, then traveled to Stockholm in November, 1944. May 5, 1944, three days before V-Day, found Shaw sneaking into Copenhagen in a fishing boat - - the first American to enter Denmark since the beginning of the war. And, he did the broadcasts for C.B.S. while the Germans were still in control of the little milk and cheese country.
Next we find him in Norway - - the first American to broadcast from Oslo after the Nazis relinquished their octopus-grip on that far northern nation. He returned to America for one month during summer of 1945 - - then immediately returned to London to cover the first meeting of the Big Four Foreign Ministers. He covered the birth of the United Nations and has watched it grow to its present size and stature. During the spring of 1946, he toured France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, and Trieste - - broadcasting all the while for C.B.S. He returned to American on August 29, 1946, where he has since been taking a well-deserved rest.
This is another instance which offers proof positive that WCAU is determined to bring to its listeners the very best in news analysis and commentation. No better man could be found than Mr. Shaw, to whom we extend a very cordial welcome. It is a pleasure for WCAU to announce another very distinguished “first” for Philadelphia area listeners.
Sometimes, Shaw was called, "The world's oldest hippie." At age 60, he quit his job, grew a beard and moved to San Francisco to be part of a mystic Christian community.
In his early years, Charles got his first gig as a deckhand on the steamboats traveling up and down the Monongahela River. At age 31, he broke into journalism as a reporter for the McKeesport Daily News. Four years later, he moved to the Iron City and the Pittsburgh Press. A year later, he went back to the Daily News as its editor.
The next year, 1938, he and his first wife, Nancy, traveling across the country taking odd jobs wherever he could find them. Then he became news director in San Antonio, KTSA radio. He interview the famous and not so famous. One of his interviews was with an up and coming star in broadcasting, Edward R. Murrow who later hired him to work at CBS Radio.
By the way, we have in our audio archive, an interview that Charles Shaw conducted while working at KTSA. It was Orson Welles and author H. G. Wells together. What an amazing program.
Charles Shaw died on December 14, 1987 from complications from emphysema and heart disease at Doylestown Hospital near Philadelphia. Anna Mae Wallowitch, his widow, has quite often visited us at our luncheons and other events. On Friday evening, November 16, 2012, Charles Shaw was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.
(Left to right) E. W. Gaumnitz (Executive Secretary of the National Cheese Institute); O. H. Hoffman, Jr. (General
Manager of the Inter-State Milk Producers' Co-op); A. R. Marvel (Inter-State President); John W. Newlin (Inter-State
Association's Counsel); Charles Shaw of WCAU Radio and Television; Miles Horst (Pennsylvania's Secretary
of Agriculture); and Donald W. Thornburgh, President of the WCAU Stations
Broadcast Pioneers member Mike Quinn tells us about his memories of Charles Shaw:
Charlie Shaw was my first news director. I began my TV news career in 1961 at Channel 10, while attending LaSalle College.
I was a very junior member of the staff, working part time as a copy boy, teleprompter typist for John Facenda's newscasts and, for a short time on weekends, giving guided tours of the station.
Anything to get experience and earn a few bucks at the same time. It was my childhood dream come true. I wanted to work in broadcast news since I was nine years old, watching the 1952 political conventions on CBS and my first goal was getting a job at Channel 10, the CBS station in this market at that time. I remember seeing Charlie doing news commentary.
In those days when he was news director, the newsroom was located in the middle of the building on the main floor, and was shared by TV and WCAU Radio, but with separate staffs. It was almost exclusively male, except for Charlie's secretary. She was an efficient and very pleasant person who put up with a lot, including the profane language which for some reason was and still is, an integral part of any newsroom; broadcast, print or wire service. When she decided to leave, Charlie made sure everyone contributed something toward a gift for her.
At the point when I arrived, Charlie had been news director there for almost 20 years, briefly in radio, then TV. He arrived there immediately after World War II, during which he was one of the legendary "Murrow Boys."
He told me he was hired by Ed Murrow and brought to London. That conversation happened the day Charlie saw me standing outside his office, looking at photographs he had on one or two walls. They showed him during the war, posing with some of the other Murrow Boys: Larry LeSeuer, Richard C. Hottelet, Bill Downs etc.
It was either then or later that I asked Charlie about some of his experiences. One of the stories he told me, stands out in my memory. After broadcasting from London for a time, Charlie went to France not long after D-Day, to help cover the war first hand. He described in detail the day he was riding in a jeep with Tom Traynor, a newspaper reporter who also worked for NBC radio and their Army driver.
Charlie said it was hot and dry that summer of 1944 in France, and military vehicles kicked up huge clouds of thick dust, sometimes obliterating the driver's view, combined with all the engine noises and confusion. As they went around a bend in the road, suddenly out of the thick wall of dust appeared a tank in a convoy moving in the opposite direction. The tank collided with the jeep, partially crushing it and killing the Army driver and Tom Traynor. Charlie survived but with extremely serious injuries. He spent months in hospitals and rehab, before he could return to work in London.
I recall that as a news director, Charlie was strict and didn't put up with careless mistakes or sloppiness. Most of the time he called me Mike like everyone else and we got along fine. But I always knew when he was displeased with something I did (or didn't do) because he would look over the top of his glasses and address me in an ominous tone of voice as "young man."
I've lost count of the number of news directors (and station managers) I worked with during my 47-year career. But probably because he was my first boss, I always vividly remember Charlie Shaw.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Written and researched by Broadcast Pioneers historian Gerry Wilkinson
Top photo originally donated by member Mike Quin and scanned by member Marc Howard
Bottom photo originally donated by member Ed Elias
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