Herb Kaplow, Voice of ABC and NBC News, Dies at 86

July 30, 2013 | Alumni

By DOUGLAS MARTIN

July 30, 2013

Herb Kaplow, a longtime Washington correspondent who brought an authoritative voice to his wide-ranging reporting for NBC News and ABC News for more than four decades, died on Saturday in Arlington, Va. He was 86.

The cause was a stroke, his family said.

Mr. Kaplow’s resonant voice and craggy face were familiar to generations of viewers of the nightly news broadcasts, and he seemed to be present wherever the action was, first for NBC and then for ABC, spending about 20 years with each while reporting from all 50 states and more than 50 countries.

He covered the White House and 10 presidential campaigns, including 19 nominating conventions from 1956 to 1992. He reported on major moments of the civil rights movement, including the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling to desegregate schools, and the Freedom Riders’ fighting to integrate buses in the early 1960s. He reported extensively on the United States space program.

He covered the Cuban revolution that culminated in the victory of Communists led by Fidel Castro in 1959. After the disastrous invasion of Cuba by American-backed Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, he was the first American reporter to interview Mr. Castro.

Mr. Kaplow covered Richard M. Nixon for decades. He was in Venezuela in 1958 when an angry crowd pelted Vice President Nixon’s limousine with rocks. He was also in China in 1972 when President Nixon made his historic trip there.

In 1965, Mr. Kaplow, then working for NBC, was the only network correspondent to accompany Mr. Nixon on a trip to Asia for Pepsi-Cola, which Mr. Nixon’s law firm represented. Erik Barnouw, in his book “Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television” (1990), wrote that Mr. Kaplow’s coverage helped keep Mr. Nixon in the public eye, speaking about Vietnam and other issues, as the Republican Party began looking ahead to 1968. Mr. Nixon went on to win the presidential nomination that year.

Herbert Elias Kaplow was born on Feb. 2, 1927, in Manhattan and grew up in Queens.

His father, a garment worker, and mother, a seamstress, were Jewish immigrants from Europe. While a student at Queens College, he was drafted into the Army and eventually assigned to the American Forces Radio Service. He read scripts reporting on the Nuremberg trials and covered a Wimbledon tennis championship.

After his discharge, he returned to Queens College and earned a degree in history. After a stint as an announcer at WCTC radio in New Brunswick, N.J., from July 1948 to January 1950, he earned a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Mr. Kaplow then went to Washington to work for WRC, an NBC radio affiliate, before taking an editing job on the NBC network program “News of the World.” About two and a half years later he became an NBC news correspondent for radio and television. He became White House correspondent in 1968. He moved over to ABC in 1972 and retired in 1994.

Mr. Kaplow, who lived in Falls Church, Va., is survived by his wife, the former Betty Rae Koplow; his sons Steven, Bobby and Larry; his sister, Naomi Michael; and six grandchildren.

Mr. Kaplow was known for tough, incisive political reporting. But as a correspondent who had seen it all, his touch could also be light, if not sardonic. In an essay in The New York Times in 1972, Eugene J. McCarthy, the former senator and presidential candidate who was known for a dry wit himself, quoted admiringly a “profound statement” made by Mr. Kaplow: “No two campaigns are different.”

Originally published by The New York Times