NEW YORK — Edwin Newman, who brought literacy, wit and energy to NBC newscasts for more than three decades, and battled linguistic pretense and clutter in his best-sellers "Strictly Speaking" and "A Civil Tongue," has died. He was 91.
Newman died on Aug. 13 of pneumonia in Oxford, England. He had moved there with his wife in 2007 to live closer to their daughter, said his lawyer Rupert Mead. He said the family delayed announcing Newman's death so they could spend some time privately grieving.
At NBC from 1952 until his retirement in 1984, Newman did political reporting, foreign reporting, anchoring of news specials, "Meet the Press," "Today," "Nightly News," midday news and a variety of radio spots. He announced the death of President Kennedy on radio, and anchored on TV when President Reagan was shot.
Newman, with his rumpled, squinting delivery, impressed his audience not so much with how he looked as with the likelihood that what he'd say would be worth hearing. And his occasional witty turn of phrase might be accompanied by a mischievous smile.
"Ed Newman was an early role model for my generation of NBC News correspondents — worldly, erudite and droll, qualities that were enriched by his pitch perfect use of the English language," said former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw. "He was always a gentleman and a reassuring presence in our midst."
He turned to writing books in the 1970s, taking on the linguistic excesses of Watergate, sportscasters, academics, bureaucrats and other assorted creators of gobbledygook with wit and indignation. Both "Strictly Speaking" and "A Civil Tongue" were best-sellers.
After retiring in January 1984, Newman enjoyed being on "Saturday Night Live" skits and in several situation comedies, where, he said, "I've always had the demanding job of playing myself." (In one SNL sketch, he mans a suicide hot line and keeps correcting the desperate caller's grammar.)
He and his wife, Rigel, had one daughter, Nancy.