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Home » Ward Chamberlin Jr., Leading Architect of Public Broadcasting and President of WETA, Dies at 95

Ward Chamberlin Jr., Leading Architect of Public Broadcasting and President of WETA, Dies at 95

by | Feb 28, 2017

Ward Chamberlin Jr., a leading architect of the nation’s public broadcasting system who revitalized PBS stations in New York and Washington and nurtured the career of the documentarian Ken Burns,  has died. He was 95.

According to the New York Times, “The cause was complications of dementia, his daughter Carolyn Chamberlin said.

“Mr. Chamberlin’s four-decade television career began circuitously. A corporate lawyer at the time, he was working for the nonprofit International Executive Service Corps, where Frank Pace, a former Army secretary, was the president.

“The two men were close: Mr. Pace had earlier been chairman of General Dynamics, the military contractor, and Mr. Chamberlin had worked for him there. They were also squash partners.

“When Mr. Pace was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to be the first chairman of the newly minted Corporation for Public Broadcasting early in 1968, he recruited Mr. Chamberlin to join him as chief operating officer.

“Mr. Pace promptly asked Mr. Chamberlin to determine what challenges and opportunities public broadcasting presented and gave him the latitude to meet them. Mr. Chamberlin proceeded to pioneer an enduring decentralized network model of independent public stations.

“He remained chief operating officer until he retired in 2003. He was also senior vice president of the Public Broadcasting Service, executive vice president and managing director of WNET in New York and president of WETA in Washington, which he transformed into the third most prolific producer of original programming after WNET and WGBH in Boston.

“PBS was created in 1969 to connect local public television stations and to distribute programming. National Public Radio (now just NPR) was formed the next year under the corporation’s umbrella.”

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