Broadcaster was net's first sports anchor

Nick Charles, the first sports anchor at CNN, died Saturday after a battle with bladder cancer. He was 64.

Charles was a familiar presence on TV’s first 24-hour news network as one half of a broadcasting duo, with Fred Hickman, who covered the sports world from the time CNN first launched in 1980. He and Hickman hosted ”Sports Tonight” on the network for 17 years.

”His passing is a loss to CNN, to the sports world and to the fans and friends everywhere who were with him to the end of his extraordinary life,” said Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide and Charles’ former field producer.

Born Nicholas Charles Nickeas, he grew up poor in Chicago, driving a taxicab to put himself through college. After shortening his name at the behest of a producer who told him his Greek name was too ethnic, Charles went on to local broadcasting jobs at Springfield, Ill., Baltimore and Washington, D.C., before going on to CNN.

After CNN, Charles continued as a sportscaster covering boxing in stints at HBO, Showtime and Versus. More recently, Charles went public with his struggle with cancer, which he learned would be fatal.

He is survived by his third wife, Cory, a senior director for CNN Intl.’s Guest Planning Unit; three daughters; a son; and three grandchildren.

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