Blakeview: Howard K. Smith_lowres


This week (Oct. 19) will bring the final televised debate of a presidential campaign like no other. Did you know a Louisiana native moderated the very first televised debate in 1960? He was Howard K. Smith, born in 1914 in Ferriday (also the hometown of Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart). Smith moved to New Orleans when he was 5 and graduated from Fortier High School and later Tulane University. One of his first jobs in journalism was at The New Orleans Item. He left in 1937 and went overseas, where he became one of CBS' famed Edward R. "Murrow boys" during World War II. As a top CBS correspondent, Smith was chosen as moderator of the 1960 John F. Kennedy-Richard Nixon debate. He wrote in his 1996 memoir that he thought Nixon performed "marginally better" than Kennedy, though television audiences gave the edge to the more-telegenic JFK. Smith moved to ABC in 1962 as anchor and analyst. He retired in 1979 and died in 2002.