Sergeant, United States Army - Journalist
Frank Reynolds (November 29, 1923–July 20, 1983), was a TV journalist for ABC. He served in the United States Army but is best remembered as anchor of the ABC Evening News (now World News Tonight) from 1968 to 1970. His body is interred in Arlington National Cemetery.
He originally co-anchored with Howard K. Smith and later with Harry Reasoner who was fresh from CBS. After Reasoner and Barbara Walters ceased their anchor duties in 1978, Reynolds returned to the anchor chair as the Washington, D.C. anchor for the now revamped ABC's World News Tonight with co-anchors Max Robinson (the first African-American journalist to anchor on primetime network TV) and Peter Jennings, who became the show's sole anchor after Reynolds' death from bone cancer, which was discovered while he was being treated for hepatitis in the spring of 1983. All three original anchors of World News Tonight are now deceased.
Reynolds was also the original anchor of "America Held Hostage", a series of special reports in November 1979 that evolved into the newsmagazine Nightline in 1980. Shortly after the special reports began, Reynolds was replaced by Ted Koppel.
One infamous moment in Frank Reynolds' career occurred on March 30, 1981 during live news coverage of the assassination attempt on U.S. President Ronald Reagan. White House Press Secretary James Brady had been erroneously reported by all three networks as having died from the head wound he suffered in the incident. Upon learning that this information was incorrect, Reynolds suddenly appeared noticeably upset and, looking around at staffers in the background, angrily burst out:
"Let's get it NAILED DOWN...somebody...let's find out! Let's get it straight so we can report this thing accurately!"
The network quickly moved to a break and upon return, Ted Koppel was seated next to Reynolds to share anchor duties and, perhaps, be a calming influence on his clearly agitated co-worker. It was one of the few times in TV history that viewers witnessed an otherwise professional journalist "lose his cool" on live TV.
Frank is the father of ABC News correspondent
July 21, 1983 – Frank Reynolds, the ABC News anchorman since 1978, died yesterday in Washington. He was 59 years old.
Mr. Reynolds had been ill with multiple myeloma, a form of bone cancer, for several months, but his death was attributed to acute viral hepatitis. He had been absent from his anchor slot on ABC’s “World News Tonight” since April and, since then, the program dropped in the ratings to third place behind “NBC Nightly News” and “CBS Evening News.”
Mr. Reynolds won the George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcast journalism in 1979.
Known as a solid, unemotional on-air reporter, Mr. Reynolds let his guard down in one incident after the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981. In the confusion over whether or not James Brady, the President’s Press Secretary, had been killed, Mr. Reynolds turned off camera and remarked angrily: “Let’s try to nail this down.”
Frank Reynolds was born in East Chicago, Indiana, dropped out of Wabash College after a year and, after Army service in World War II, during which he won a purple heart, worked for CBS and ABC stations in Chicago. In 1965, he decided to take a 50 percent cut in pay to work as an ANC network correspondent in Washington.
In 1967, ABC officered him the anchor post on the “Evening News.” He declined. “I felt they could find someone else to sit there and read the news,” he said. A year later, however, he relented and moved to New York to share to anchor duties with Howard K. Smith.
According to Barbara Matusow’s book, “The Evening Stars,” Mr. Reynolds’s liberal views irritated many owners of ABC affiliate stations around the country. The network itself became uneasy about him, she relates, when Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, in excoriating the media, singled our Mr. Reynolds’s commentaries for special criticism.
After being replaced by Harry Reasoner in 1968, Mr. Reynolds spent eight years covering major stories, including political conventions and space flights. After Roone Arledge, President of ABC News, returned him to the anchor chair in 1978, Mr. Reynolds characterized his career with some irony as “Lazarus-like.” The second time around, he shared anchor responsibilities with Peter Jennings and Max Robinson.
In the beginning of their relationship, when Mr. Arledge first took over ABC News, Mrs. Arledge concentrated on bringing in newer, younger people. But in later years, according to other ABC newsmen, Mr. Arledge came to appreciate Mr. Reynolds’s knowledge and experience.
A practicing Roman Catholic, Mr. Reynolds frowned on rough language and off-color jokes, drank little and spent his free time with his family in suburban Bethesda, Maryland. He came to work early and, unlike some anchors, who read what is handed to them, participated in the preparation of each day’s program.
The television newsman, Sander Vanocur once described Mr. Reynolds as “a kind of James Cagney character.” He came out of the Chicago school of journalism, Mr. Vanocur said, “Which means you have paid your dues in one of the toughest journalistic towns in the world and you don’t have to take anything from anybody.”
Mr. Reynolds is survived by his wife, Henrietta; five sons, James, John, Robert, Thomas and Dean, a Washington correspondent for Cable News Network; his mother, Helen Reynolds, of Hammond, Indiana, and three sisters.
The funeral will be held Saturday at 11 A.M.
at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington. A White House spokesman
said Mrs. Reagan would attend the requiem mass and that the President would
attend “if his schedule permits.” Mr. Reynolds will be buried in Arlington
National Cemetery with full military honors. According to Sheila
Tate, Mrs. Reagan’s press secretary, the first lady arranged for the Arlington
burial after learning from Mrs. Reynolds that Mr. Reynolds had expressed
a wish to be buried there.
WASHINGTON, July 23, 1983 – President and Mrs. Reagan joined more than a thousand dignitaries, journalists and friends of Frank Reynolds today at funeral services for the ABC News anchor.
Ted Koppel, host of ANC News’s “Nightline” broadcast and Peter Jennings, one of Mr. Reynolds’s colleagues on “World News Tonight” were among those delivering eulogies at St. Matthew’s Cathedral near the ABC News Washington Bureau. The Rev. Edward Herrman, representing Washington’s Roman Catholic archdiocese, read a letter from the Vatican praising Mr. Reynolds as a “dedicated servant of enlightening public opinion.”
Mr Reynolds was 59 years old when he died Wednesday of viral hepatitis and bone cancer. He and the Reagans were longtime friends, and Nancy Reagan spent about 45 minutes along Thursday with Mr. Reynolds’s wife, Henrietta, at the funeral home. The Reagans accompanied Mrs. Reynolds and her five sons to Arlington National Cemetery, where Mr. Reynolds was buried.
Mrs. Reagan said Wednesday that Mr. Reynolds
was a “very decent man not only in the way he lived but in the way that
he did his job.”
Gravesite photo courtesy of Ron Williams
Photograph By M. R. Patterson, October 2002
Updated: 24 January 2001 Updated: 9 October 2002 Updated: 14 June 2003 Updated: 3 March 2006 Updated: 8 April 2006 Updated: 19 February 2008
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 28 June 2003