John Chancellor served as anchor of the NBC Nightly News from 1970 to 1982. He was a dedicated J. Press customer from the early 1960s until his death in 1996. I was with him shortly after his arrest at the 1964 Republican National Convention for refusing to cede his spot on the floor to the “Goldwater Girls,” supporters of the Republican presidential candidate. “How about fitting a jailbird, Richard,” he said to me.
A family entanglement with John Chancellor occurred at the 1985 Reagan/Gorbachev Geneva Summit. Before the trip when Chancellor told me about his Summit assignment I told him my son Ben was spending freshman fall semester at Franklin College in Lugano prior to entering Middlebury. “Tell him to call me,” Chancellor responded, “I’ll show him around.” Here’s my son’s version of the ensuing event:
“Chancellor was a very kind, approachable and authentic man. He reminded me more of one of my prep school teachers than an anchor of the leading American network’s evening news broadcast.
After Chancellor’s personally guided tour he said it’d be necessary for me to secure a press pass badge in order to be allowed in proximity to the briefings from the White House Press Secretary at Geneva’s Hall of Justice nearby NBC’s HQ. Chancellor placed himself behind a secretary’s typewriter on the spot and began typing away at a letter on NBC News letterhead attesting to my being editor & chief of The Franklin College Tribune. He endorsed me in the letter and signed it as well. I closely followed his instructions to take the “letter of accreditation” to Switzerland’s Accreditation Bureau a few blocks away.
Arriving at the pick-up desk, a Swiss security official bluntly stated to me the letter was a fake, he knew I was not editor of the college newspaper (Franklin didn't have a newspaper!) and he’d spoken with Franklin’s dean who said he would immediately handle the ensuing punitive disciplinary action which was, he informed me, fortunate since fraud is a crime punishable by imprisonment in Switzerland.
Dean Schlein was livid at my “stunt” placing me on probation along with writing a 20 page researched paper about the philosophy of lying.”
Shortly thereafter Chancellor was back at J. Press and asked to see me.
He appeared sheepish and started to apologize when I gifted him a Shaggy Dog Sweater and told him he provided my son with a lifetime experience together with a lesson in ethics. I also appreciated his compliments regarding my son’s self-confidence.
J. Press and its celebrity clientele have enriched my life many times over even though one of them nearly got my son thrown into a Swiss jail.
John Chancellor was a respected force in broadcasting and a true gentleman. I enjoyed the story and wasn’t surprised by your son’s impression in Europe that he was approachable and authentic. I think that showed through on his nightly broadcasts, too. I miss John Chancellor and the old school journalists.
In response to Matt Schudel, thank you for confirming my question on Sander Vanocur. Sorry to hear of Mr. Vanocur’s passing., Incidentally, I did know of the other Broadcast Journalist Frank McGee, who specifically commented on air about the news of the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. I saw this clip of Frank McGee commenting on the tragic news, on an old VHS tape that I purchased at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston entitled, “Life In Camelot: The Kennedy Years”.
Responding to Jeffrey Haber above. Yes, that is Sander Vanocur at left in the photo with John Chancellor. The gentleman wearing glasses on the right is Frank McGee, another acclaimed broadcast journalist of the time. Sander Vanocur died last year: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/sander-vanocur-tv-journalist-and-panelist-in-kennedy-nixon-debate-dies-at-91/2019/09/17/71ae5ba4-d95c-11e9-bfb1-849887369476_story.html
Is that gentleman Sander Vanocur standing to the left of John Chancellor? As a History Teacher, I am curious about this. I believe this would be the same Reporter Sander Vanocur who was a moderator and asked questions to both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon during the famed Kennedy-Nixon Debates of 1960.
I have to agree with Robert E., “Those were the day of serious journalism we could trust.” Today, we get to listen to someones ideas, not the true facts!
Gary E. Hodgdon
After almost getting my son thrown in jail I wouldn’t have been so cordial to Mr.Chancellor no matter how good a customer he was(goes back to Neiman Marcus philosophy “the customer is always right”)
John Chancellor responded personally to a note I had written him in 1971 concerning an error he had made in the Nightly News regarding the identification of the U.S. “border states”. Those were the days of serious journalism we could trust.