Sir Charles Wheeler, one of the BBC‘s longest-serving and most popular foreign correspondents, has died, the corporation announced today. He was 85 and was suffering from lung cancer.
Sir Charles was chief US correspondent from 1969 to 1973, when he was made Europe correspondent.
In the 1950s, he worked as a correspondent in Germany and South Asia.
In the US, Sir Charles covered the assassination of Martin Luther King, Beatlemania, and Watergate.
He also worked for Newsnight for 15 years and was a Panorama producer.
Sir Charles made his name while in Delhi, covering the Dalai Lama’s flight from Tibet.
The journalist, who was born a year after the BBC was founded, was critical of the cult of personality in TV news journalism.
Today BBC director general Mark Thompson described Sir Charles as “utterly irreplaceable”.
He said: “To audiences and to his colleagues alike, Charles Wheeler was simply a legend.
“His integrity, his authority and his humanity graced the BBC’s airwaves over many decades.
“He is utterly irreplaceable but like everyone else, I am privileged to have worked with him.”
Deputy BBC director general and head of BBC Journalism Mark Byford said: “Charles was, in my view, the greatest broadcast journalist of his generation.
“Courageous, insightful and always curious, he had the truly outstanding gift for vivid, beautiful writing matched by a quite extraordinary skill for using pictures and sound to convey the power of his own eye witness reportage.
“As a journalist you saw him as the pinnacle of our profession. His death is a huge loss but his legacy will last forever.”
Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer said: “Charles Wheeler embodied all that is best in the BBC’s journalism.
“He had a brilliant eye and an unequalled ability to convey what he saw and what he knew.
“His work for Radio 4 over the last decade demonstrated his astonishing range – dealing with central and eastern Europe – but also, and superbly, with the legacy at home of World War Two.
“The documentary series Coming Home in 2005 was the Radio 4 highlight that year.
“He was working for Radio 4 almost until he died, on a programme about the Dalai Lama.
“Everything he did was shot through with his compassion and wisdom. He was magnificent.”