Charles Kuralt was born on Sept. 10, 1934, in Wilmington, North Carolina, the son of a teacher and a social worker. At 14, Kuralt broadcast minor-league baseball games. Years later, he became famous for having the longest road-game winning streak in television history.
From 1967 to 1980 as the host of “On the Road,” Kuralt traveled more than a million miles through the 50 states, mostly in a modest but durable motorhome, producing big-hearted essays on small town USA and the people who live there. His stories for CBS reported on horse-traders and a 93-year-old brick maker, on the wonders of nature and the nature of human wonders, like the sharecropper in Mississippi who put nine children through college or the 103-year-old entertainer who performed at nursing homes.
Kuralt’s segments were recognized twice with personal Peabody Awards. The first, awarded in 1968, cited those segments as heartwarming and “nostalgic vignettes.” He shared in a third Peabody awarded to CBS News Sunday Morning.
“I don't know, I have always had the travel itch,” said Kuralt in an interview. “When I was a little boy, my father was a social worker in North Carolina, working for the state. He used to baby-sit me by taking me on his supervisory trips to one county seat after another. And I looked forward to those trips. God, I loved it. And he would tell me little bits of history, try to interest me in what was passing by down there in eastern North Carolina. Maybe that’s where it began.”
Kuralt downplayed the significance of his work.
“I have resolutely pursued irrelevance out there on the back roads,” he once said. Clearly, though, he believed otherwise. Of his report on the sharecropper with the nine college graduates for children, he said: “There are probably no lessons in any of this. But I know that in the future, whenever I hear that the family is a dying institution, I’ll think of them.”
Kuralt died on July 4th, 1997. He was 62.
While the man is no longer with us, one of his six motorhomes is. Nearly 30-feet long, 1973 FMC motorhome that carried Kuralt, his cameraman Isadore “Izzy’ Bleckman and audio engineer Larry Gianneschi, Jr., across America, where they took time “to meet people, listen to yarns, and feel the seasons change” is one of the more popular exhibits at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, just outside of Detroit.
Here’s a peek inside of the vehicle that made it possible for Kuralt to tell extraordinary stories about seemingly ordinary folks.