Chet Hagan, a former NBC News producer who garnered several Emmys during his lengthy career, died Feb. 12 of natural causes at his home in Pennsylvania. He was 79.
Hagan, who sometimes went by the spelling of Hagen, began his career in the late 1940s as a copy boy on the Reading Eagle. After working on newspapers in Reading and nearby Lebanon for several years, he began writing news stories for several radio stations in the area. He later relocated to New York City where he joined NBC News as an assistant manager of news before being promoted to producer of the radio network’s “News of the World,” a post he held until 1955. He spent the next three years in Chicago before returning to New York as a TV news program producer.
He received many top honors during his broadcasting career including several Emmys for producing the 1962 NBC News coverage of John Glenn’s orbit of Earth and a 1963 special for coverage of the Vietnam War. He also won a Peabody Award (also in 1963) for producing a program on the civil rights movement as well as two Sylvania Awards for space flight coverage and Russian Premier Nikita Kruschev’s U.S. visit.
Hagan later noted to associates that his proudest achievement was his nonstop four-day coverage of President Kennedy’s assassination and subsequent funeral in November 1963. Ironically, Hagan’s final program for NBC was as producer of the TV news coverage of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago — just weeks after the assassination of President Kennedy’s brother and presidential hopeful Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
Hagan also produced eight annual Country Music Awards programs and supervised Grand Ole Opry shows from Nashville.
He is survived by wife Dorothy and a son.