Class of 1930
Almost from the time NBC became a radio network and continuing for some four decades, the voice of Ben Grauer became a familiar sound to millions of listeners. In a career as varied as it was prolific, Grauer was an announcer, newsman, commentator, moderator and host, his distinctive and dignified style setting a standard for generations to come. In the early days of television broadcasting, he was one of the first to make the transition to the new medium. And when he was just a tyke, he was acting in films, on Broadway and as a member of a Gus Edwards vaudeville revue that featured such other kid performers as Walter Winchell and Milton Berle.
Grauer was born in Staten Island on June 2, 1908. He attended Townsend Harris High School, then earned a B.A. at CCNY. Just after his graduation in 1930, he joined NBC, which had been formed only four years earlier. Armed with a speaking voice that could convey authority and elegance, plus an ability to ad lib when he needed to, Grauer quickly became the staff announcer and the network’s go-to man for almost any kind of assignment. One of his earliest, and most poignant, was in 1932 on the day after the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped, when he was asked to read an urgent message over the radio from Anne Morrow Lindbergh to the kidnappers, giving them the recipe for her baby’s special formula. One of his more memorable, if unplanned, lines was heard during coverage of the visit of Pope Paul VI to Yankee Stadium in 1965. Describing the Pontiff’s entrance, Grauer said, “And now the Pope is coming around third base.”
As an announcer, Grauer was associated with programs ranging from those of rat-tat-tat newsman Winchell to Eleanor Roosevelt, and from the NBC Symphony Orchestra with Arturo Toscanini to Kay Kayser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge with Ish Kabibble. As a radio newsman, he reported from four continents for NBC. He covered the 1932 Olympic Games; the Morro Castle fire in 1934; presidential inaugurations; the United Nations Conference on International Organization in 1945; and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. He interviewed Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Tokyo during the occupation of Japan, and provided the first on-the-scene reports of the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte in Jerusalem in 1948. He was perhaps best known for covering the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square on radio and TV, 11 times between 1951 and 1969, and then for CBS following his retirement from NBC in 1973.
When NBC broadcast its first television special, the 1939 opening of the New York World’s Fair, it was Grauer who provided the commentary. And in 1948, when the network telecast its first extensive live coverage of the national political conventions, it was Grauer, working with anchor John Cameron Swayze, who was on the scene. Starting in the mid-1950s, for about 10 years, Grauer’s news reports were part of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” first with hosts Steve Allen, then with Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. Grauer was presented with the Legion of Honor from France in 1956 and a Townsend Harris Medal from the College in 1973.
Following his retirement from NBC and up to the time of his death, Grauer hosted “New York, New York with Ben Grauer” for the Voice of America. He died on May 31, 1977, two days before his 69th birthday.