LONDON — The BBC’s longest serving foreign correspondent, Charles Wheeler, has died. The 85-year-old reporter had been suffering from lung cancer.
Wheeler, who was working on a program about the Dalai Lama almost until he died, covered such stories as the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and Watergate during eight years as the corp.’s Washington correspondent.
The BBC’s director-general Mark Thompson described Wheeler, who joined the pubcaster in 1947 following service in the Second World War, as “a legend.”
“His integrity, his authority and his humanity graced the BBC’s airwaves over many decades,” Thompson said.
“He is utterly irreplaceable but like everyone else, I am privileged to have worked with him.”
Wheeler, famous in media circles for his outspoken criticism of John Birt, who ran the BBC in the 1990s, began his news career as a copy boy on the now-defunct British newspaper the Daily Sketch.
But it was as a broadcaster that the dapper Wheeler found his mark. He reported for the BBC from South Asia and Germany before being dispatched to the U.S.
Wheeler, knighted for his services to journalism in 2006, also presented the corp.’s flagship public affairs programs “Panorama” and “Newsnight.”
Latterly, he had made a number of acclaimed docus for BBC Radio 4. The network’s controller Mark Damazer described Wheeler as a “magnificent” man who “embodies all that is best in the BBC’s journalism.”
Damazer added: “He had a brilliant eye and an unequalled ability to convey what he saw and what he knew.”