Huntley, Chet, 1911-1974

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Montana native and television newscaster.

From the description of Chet Huntley press conference, 1970 Feb. 16. (Montana Historical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 70962881

Chester ("Chet") Robert Huntley was a broadcast journalist best known for his work on NBC’s top-rated news show, the "Huntley/Brinkley Report." Born December 10, 1911, in Caldwell, Montana, he began his career in radio, eventually serving three national networks as a newsman, analyst, and commentator. In 1956, Huntley and co-host David Brinkley began their celebrated television news program, which ended with Huntley’s retirement in 1970. He died in 1974.

From the description of Huntley, Chet, 1911-1974 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10569713

Chester Robert Huntley was born in Cardwell, Montana, on December 10, 1911. His parents, Percy "Pat" and Blanche Huntley, claimed a homestead on 960 acres of land near Saco in northern Montana. Percy Huntley was a former railroad telegrapher and Blanche was a schoolteacher. The Huntleys built a one-room schoolhouse on their land so Chet could stay close to home and help work the farm. The early 1920s was a very difficult period for wheat farmers in eastern Montana and Percy returned to a telegraphy position with the Great Northern Railroad. The Huntleys sold their Saco homestead in 1924 and the family moved frequently around southern Montana until 1926. In that year they settled in Whitehall, Montana, where Chet graduated from high school in 1929. Although he began his education at Montana State College in Bozeman with plans to become a physician, Huntley left that school in 1932 when he won a scholarship to study oratory at the Cornish School of Arts in Seattle. The experience altered his career plans, and he graduated from the University of Washington in 1934 with a degree in speech and drama.

During his senior year in Seattle, Huntley began working at radio station KPCB where his duties included advertising sales, news writing, and announcing. This job soon led to reporting positions at other radio stations: KHO in Spokane, Washington; KGW in Portland, Oregon; and KFI in Los Angeles. In 1939 Huntley joined the staff of KNX, the CBS Radio affiliate in Los Angeles. At KNX he began writing and producing short news commentary programs. Huntley continued to pursue news commentary projects under various titles throughout his broadcasting career. From 1951 to 1955 he worked for ABC Radio and Television in Los Angeles. Early in 1955, he was hired by the NBC Pacific Division to work as West Coast commentator and reporter for the Today show. In June 1955, NBC transferred him to their New York headquarters with the promise of a major news program.

His first major national assignment came in 1956 when he covered the Republican and Democratic national conventions with David Brinkley. The pairing drew the highest ratings among the three national networks for convention coverage. In October NBC chose the two men to co-anchor the network's fifteen-minute weekday evening news program. The program had an innovative format with Huntley reporting from New York and Brinkley from Washington DC. In 1963 the Huntley-Brinkley Report became one of the first thirty-minute network news programs. During its fourteen-year tenure the Huntley-Brinkley Report was one of the most professionally recognized and highly rated news programs on television, eventually winning seven Emmy and two Peabody awards. Both Brinkley and Huntley received numerous individual broadcasting awards. Huntley was also involved with several other news programs at NBC. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, he edited and narrated a series of Sunday evening news broadcasts. Variously titled Outlook, NBC Kaleidoscope, and Chet Huntley Reporting, the program presented expanded commentary on various news events and issues. Through most of the 1960s he also wrote and narrated a five-minute NBC radio program of editorial commentary titled Chet Huntley's Perspective on the News, with a weekend equivalent named Emphasis: Plain Talk .

Throughout his career Huntley caused controversy by blurring the lines between news reporting and political commentary. He was a vocal critic of Senator Joseph McCarthy and entertainment industry anti-communism activists. His commentary programs spoke out against internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, advocated school integration in Little Rock, Arkansas, and critiqued the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. Huntley defended his commentary programs by declaring that he never allowed his opinions to influence newscasts; however, one industry critic accused him of editorializing with his eyebrows during the Huntley-Brinkley Report . Huntley precipitated other controversies. As the owner of a Montana cattle ranch, Huntley recorded commercials and accepted speaking engagements to promote the beef industry. These activities generated profuse criticism from other professionals concerned about maintaining the image of broadcasting objectivity and integrity. He caused a rift with David Brinkley in 1967 when Huntley crossed an American Federation of Television and Radio Artists' picket line claiming that news anchors did not belong in the same union as "actors, singers, and dancers."

During the height of his NBC broadcasting career Huntley wrote a memoir of his Montana youth. Random House published The Generous Years: Remembrances of a Frontier Boyhood in 1968. He retired from NBC on July 31, 1970. For the final broadcast of the Huntley-Brinkley Report, Huntley initiated the team's signature closing with the words "Good night, David." However, Brinkley altered form with his response "Good-bye, Chet." Before signing off Huntley addressed a final statement to the television audience, "Be patient and have courage, there will be better and happier news some day, if we work at it."

Huntley met his first wife, Ingrid Eleanor Rolin, while living in Seattle. They were married in 1936, had two daughters, and divorced in 1959. Huntley met his second wife, Lewis Tipton "Tippy" Stringer, in 1959. Tippy was a weather announcer for the DC NBC affiliate. They had no children. Huntley stayed active in retirement, broadcasting commentaries, recording commercials for American Airlines, and contracting with the airline to sponsor a new PBS program The American Experience, a series for which Huntley frequently narrated.

Big Sky, Montana, was Huntley's biggest post-retirement project, both in terms of personal investment and financial scale. The project started as a 15,000-acre resort in the Gallatin Valley of south central Montana that eventually became a permanent community. The primary corporation directing Big Sky development was Chrysler Realty, a conglomeration co-funded by Chrysler Motor Corporation, Conoco Oil, Burlington Northern Railroad, Montana Power Co. and Northwest Airlines. The project included one of the first privately owned ski resorts in the United States. Huntley died of cancer March 20, 1974, in Bozeman, Montana, three days before the opening ceremonies for Big Sky.

From the guide to the Chet Huntley Papers, 1920-1977, (Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Taishoff, Sol, 1904-1982. Papers. University of Maryland Libraries, UMD Libraries
creatorOf Huntley, Chet, 1911-1974. Chet Huntley press conference, 1970 Feb. 16. Montana Historical Society Library
creatorOf Allen, Ida C. Bailey. [Culinary ephemera : meats and eggs]. Box 263. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
referencedIn New York Times Company records. A.M. Rosenthal papers, 1955-1994, 1967-1986 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Tarver, Jack (Jackson Williams), 1917-1999. Jack Tarver research collection, 1955-1969. Georgia State University
referencedIn Records of the Community Services Administration. 1963 - 1981. Moving Images Relating to Anti-Poverty Programs. 1964 - 1979. THE LAND
referencedIn General Records of the Department of Labor. 1907 - 2001. Motion Picture Films. 1940 - 1969. The Wise Years Wasted
referencedIn Frank, Reuven, 1920-2006. [Interview with Reuven Frank] [sound recording] / Reuven Frank ; [interviewed by] Les Brown, July 9, 1996. Syracuse University
creatorOf Huntley, Chet, 1911-1974. Papers, 1957-1974. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
creatorOf Chet Huntley Papers, 1920-1977 Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn Committee to Secure Justice for Morton Sobell. Committee to Secure Justice for Morton Sobell records, 1946-1969. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn National Broadcasting Company, Inc., Collection. 1953 - 1962. Motion Picture Films. 1953 - 1962. THE INAUGURATION OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: JOHN F. KENNEDY, JANUARY 20, 1961
creatorOf Chet Huntley Papers. 1963 - 1963. Correspondence
referencedIn Robert Northshield Collection. 1966 - 1966. Motion Picture Films. 1966 - 1966. THE AGE OF KENNEDY; PART 1: THE EARLY YEARS
creatorOf Thompson, Lawrance Roger, 1906-1973. Papers on Robert Frost, 1947-1969. Dartmouth College Library
Chet Huntley Papers
referencedIn Records of the Community Services Administration. 1963 - 1981. Moving Images Relating to Anti-Poverty Programs. 1964 - 1979. THE BATTLE OF NEWBURGH
creatorOf Huntley, Chet, 1911-1974. Radio pieces, 1943 Apr. 13-1944 June 6. University of Montana, Mansfield Library
referencedIn The Railroad hour, radio program [sound recording], 1948-1954 The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.
referencedIn Frederick R. Koch collection of photographs of stage and screen actors and entertainers, ca. 1920-1979. Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University.
creatorOf Freed, Fred, 1920-1974. NBC white paper [sound recording] : decision to drop the bomb / produced by Fred Freed for NBC-TV; narrated by Chet Huntley, 1965 January 5. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Firestone Tire and Rubber Company Collection. 1959 - 1960. Motion Picture Films. 1959 - 1960. EYE WITNESS TO HISTORY
referencedIn Chet Huntley Papers, 1920-1977 Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn National Broadcasting Company, Inc., Collection. 1953 - 1962. Motion Picture Films. 1953 - 1962. THE SECOND AGONY OF ATLANTA
referencedIn Robert Northshield Collection. 1966 - 1966. Motion Picture Films. 1966 - 1966. THE AGE OF KENNEDY; PART 2: THE PRESIDENCY
referencedIn National Broadcasting Company. Records, 1921-2000. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Correspondence, 1860-1979. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Robert Manning papers, 1938-1993. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Montana. Dept. of Planning and Economic Development. Records, 1970. Montana Historical Society Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Anderson, Forrest Howard, 1913-1989. person
associatedWith Been, Orson. person
associatedWith Big Sky of Montana, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Brinkley, David. person
associatedWith Capehart, Homer E. (Homer Earl), 1897-1979. person
associatedWith Cerf, Bennett, 1898-1971. person
associatedWith Committee to Secure Justice for Morton Sobell. corporateBody
associatedWith Dillon, C. Douglas (Clarence Douglas), 1909-2003. person
associatedWith Durant, Will, 1885-1981. person
associatedWith Eban, Abba Solomon, 1915-2002. person
associatedWith Frank, Reuven, 1920-2006. person
associatedWith Freeman, Orville L. person
associatedWith Garroway, Dave, 1913-1982. person
associatedWith General Montana History Collection (Montana Historical Society) corporateBody
associatedWith Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945. person
correspondedWith Hocking, William Ernest, 1873-1966 person
associatedWith Homer, Edwin M. person
associatedWith Horizons Communications Corporation. corporateBody
associatedWith Huntley, Chet (Chester Robert), 1911-1974 person
associatedWith Koch, Frederick R. (Frederick Robinson), collector. person
associatedWith KRBM (Radio station : Bozeman, Mont.) corporateBody
associatedWith Manning, Robert, 1919- person
associatedWith Merrick, Bill. person
associatedWith Montana. Dept. of Planning and Economic Development. corporateBody
associatedWith National Broadcasting Company. corporateBody
associatedWith NBC News corporateBody
associatedWith Railroad Hour Radio Program corporateBody
associatedWith Rosenthal, A. M. (Abraham Michael), 1922-2006 person
associatedWith Sarnoff, David, 1891-1971. person
associatedWith Scott, Walter D. person
associatedWith Taishoff, Sol, 1904-1982. person
associatedWith Tarver, Jack (Jackson Williams), 1917-1999. person
associatedWith Thompson, Lawrance Roger, 1906-1973. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
African Americans--Civil rights
Television broadcasting of news
Radio journalism--United States
Ski resorts
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Public opinion
Moving Images
World War, 1939-1945--Radio broadcasting and the war
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists Strike, United States, 1967
World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns
Sound Recordings
Television broadcasting of news--United States
World War, 1939-1945
Radio journalists--United States
Television journalists--United States


Birth 1911-12-10

Death 1974-03-20




Ark ID: w6g44rks

SNAC ID: 67987976