Ward Chamberlin, Jr. — one of the founders of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio — died late last February. He was 95 years old.
In 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Chamberlin was recruited as chief operating officer. He was tasked with defining the challenges facing public broadcasting and given the responsibility for surmounting those challenges. In response, Chamberlin created the decentralized network structure of independent noncommercial stations that has endured to the present day.
Chamberlin also served as executive vice president and managing director of WNET in New York City and president of WETA in Washington. Perhaps Chamberlin’s most visible accomplishment was to create a lasting partnership with the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. In 1985, Chamberlin helped fund Burns’ biographical film on Senator Huey Long, which started a partnership that led to the production of further documentaries including The Civil War, Jazz, The War and The National Parks among many others.
The president and CEO of PBS, Paula Kerger, said in a statement “Ward had a brilliant mind, a great sense of humor, and a passion for nurturing emerging talent. His spirit will continue to inspire and guide us as we fulfill the mission and promise of public broadcasting.”