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Garrick Utley, longtime TV foreign correspondent, dies at 74

Garrick Utley, a globe-trotting newscaster who spent 30 years with NBC News as a foreign correspondent, weekend anchor, morning-show host and moderator of “Meet the Press,” died Feb. 20 at his home in New York City. He was 74.

NBC News first announced his death. The cause was prostate cancer.

After joining NBC in 1963, Utley spent most of the next 25 years overseas as a foreign correspondent of the old school. He reported from more than 70 countries and was among the first journalists to provide television coverage of the war in Vietnam.

He later covered such international flash points as the 1968 pro-democracy demonstrations that were part of the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia, the 1973 Yom Kippur War in the Middle East, revolts against the repressive apartheid regime in South Africa and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Lanky and cosmopolitan, the 6-foot-6 Utley spoke several languages and seemed at ease wherever his feet touched the ground. He was, at various times, NBC’s chief correspondent in London, Berlin and Paris.

Beginning in 1987, Utley was based in New York, working variously as a weekend anchor of the “Nightly News” and “Today” show and, from 1989 through 1991, as moderator of “Meet the Press.”

His successor on the weekend desk of “Nightly News” was Brian Williams, who is now NBC’s top anchor. His chair on “Meet the Press” was taken over by Tim Russert.

“I may have been the only person at NBC News who did every type of programming as host or anchor,” Utley told the Associated Press in 1993. “There’s a risk in being the utility infielder. If you ask whether I was being taken for granted, obviously that is a factor in my moving from NBC.”

He joined ABC News in 1993 and returned to his first love as the network’s chief foreign correspondent, based in London.

“I guess I’ve never gotten entirely away from it,” he told The Washington Post at the time. “This is a very, very exciting time; my passion, my interest has always been the U.S. and the rest of the world.”

Clifton Garrick Utley was born Nov. 19, 1939, in Chicago. His parents, Clifton Utley and Frayn Utley, were pioneering broadcast journalists in Chicago, and he began accompanying them to studios at an early age.

He graduated in 1961 from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., then served in the Army before joining NBC as John Chancellor’s assistant in the Brussels bureau. (Chancellor later became anchor of the “Nightly News.”)

By 1964, the 24-year-old Utley was reporting from war zones in Vietnam, earning $62.50 a week, he later recalled.

After covering major international events, Utley served as a weekend anchor of “Nightly News” in the 1970s, reported on U.S. presidential elections and prepared a series of in-depth programs on civil rights, foreign affairs and other topics.

He won two of broadcast journalism’s most prestigious honors: the Overseas Press Club of America’s Edward R. Murrow Award for coverage of the Cold War and the Peabody Award for his contributions to a 1985 NBC special report, “Vietnam: Ten Years Later.”

Utley worked for CNN from 1997 to 2002, was host of the PBS opera program “Live From the Met” and contributed to Public Radio International.

From 2003 to 2011, he was founding president of the Levin Institute, a State University of New York organization that promotes international understanding and commerce. Since 2012, he had been on the faculty of the State University of New York at Oswego.

Survivors include his wife of 40 years, art historian Gertje Rommeswinkel Utley of New York.

In his memoir, “You Should Have Been Here Yesterday” (2000), Utley recounted his career and lamented the decline in international reporting by TV networks. He also noted that he met his wife in Paris in 1970, the same year he thought of the title for his book.

“It just took 30 years,” he told The New York Times, “to figure out what to put between the covers.”

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