University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

A Guide to the Les Midgley Papers, 1936-2002

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Midgley, Leslie, 1915-2002
Title: Midgley, Les, papers
Dates: 1936-2002
Abstract: The Les Midgley Papers, 1936-2002, contain correspondence, memoranda, articles, scripts, drafts, financial and legal documents, and research files, which illuminate the newspaper and television news career of Les Midgley.
Accession No.: 2005-229
Extent: 4 ft.
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Note

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Leslie "Les" Midgley (1915-2002) was the son of J. George Midgley (1887-1979) and grandson of the seventh Mormon Church president Heber J. Grant. He began his journalism career in 1935, working as a police reporter for the Deseret News. In 1940, Midgley settled in New York City as a reporter for the New York Herald-Tribune, leaving in 1950. Following several years as an editor for Look magazine and Collier’s Weekly, he shifted into television as a producer for CBS News. In 1954, Midgley wrote a morning program, entitled F.Y.I., with Andy Rooney and then produced a half-hour news show with Eric Sevareid.

Next, Midgley produced specials on international events, before becoming executive producer of CBS’s Eyewitness to History in 1959. The show was cancelled four years later, and he became produced for The Evening News with Walter Cronkite. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Midgley controlled the continuous on-air reportage following the assassination through Kennedy’s burial. In 1972, Midgley left The Evening News to work on documentary specials and became head of CBS’s Special Reports Unit. After his retirement from CBS in 1980, Midgley joined NBS News as vice president for special programs, leaving a few years later in order to teach.

During his years in the television news industry, Midgley continued to write editorials and research articles for newspapers, magazines, and journals. In 1989, he published an autobiography, How Many Words Do You Want?: An Insider’s Story of Print and Television Journalism. Midgley married Jean Burke (d. 1965), with whom he had three children: Leslie Midgley, Jr., Andrea Connors, and Peter Midgley. In 1967, he married actress and consumer advocate Betty Furness (1916-1994).


Oliver, Myrna. "Leslie Midgley, 87; Developed TV Specials on Breaking News."Los Angeles Times, (accessed September 13, 2010).

Scope and Contents

The Les Midgley Papers, 1936-2002, contain correspondence, memoranda, articles, scripts, drafts, financial and legal documents, and research files, which illuminate the newspaper and television news career of Les Midgley. Primarily concerning Midgley’s tenure as executive producer at CBS News, the collection includes memoranda from Frank Stanton, Richard Salant, Gordon Manning, and others about special projects, programming, and Nielsen ratings as well as from NBC about his transition from CBS. Articles, correspondence, news story drafts and scripts, and research materials document his numerous television shows and news reports about the Vietnam War, the banking industry, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the Warren Report, and his years with The Evening News with Walter Cronkite. The collection also contains early correspondence, articles, and drafts from Midgley’s newspaper career with the Deseret News, the New York Herald-Tribune, Collier’s Weekly, and Look magazine as well as editorials for newspapers, magazines, and journals after he started work in TV news. Correspondence, reviews, royalty statements, drafts, and financial records relate to the publication of his autobiography, How Many Words Do You Want? Furthermore, correspondence, drafts, and publications document his family history and his grandfather Heber J. Grant.


Organization and Arrangement

The collection is divided into four series:
  • I. CBS News
  • II. NBC News
  • III. Other work
  • IV. Personal


Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Midgley, Leslie -- Archives.
Cronkite, Walter
Subjects (Organizations)
CBS News
NBC News
Journalists -- United States
Editors--United States
Broadcast journalism--United States

Related Material

This collection was separated from the Scheffler (Philip) Papers.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Les Midgley Papers, 1936-2002, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Jocelyn Petyak, December, 2010.

Detailed Description of the Papers

2.325/F31 CBS News:
General correspondence:
Arranged by date:
2.325/F32 1975-1979
2.325/F31 Arranged by subject:
Feinman demand for retraction, 1977-1978
CBS management, 1961-1968
Local News, 1965-1969
Network affiliates, 1967-1968
Washington Bureau stories, 1966-1969
2.325/F32 Chappaquiddick, 1979
Station affiliates, 1967-1968
Stollmack’s television crew, 1965-1969
2.325/F33 Letter on Pope John Paul II in Poland, June 18, 1979
Sloan Foundation, October 3, 1978
Editorial Policy, 1961
2.325/F31 Memos:
Arranged by date:
2.325/F32 1974-1978
2.325/F31 Arranged by sender:
Gordon Manning, 1965-1967
2.325/F34 Richard Salant, 1966-1970
Assorted, 1936-1999
2.325/F34 Programs:
Warren Report Broadcasts:
Preliminary research and correspondence, 1966-1967
Script critiques, 1967
Materials related to Josiah Thompson, 1967
2.325/F32 A CBS Inquiry: The Warren Report:
Assorted materials related to Mark Lane's book A Citizen's Dissent, 1967-1968
Correspondence, outlines, and scripts, 1966-1967
Background, worksheets, and notes for Steven White’s book, 1967-1969, undated
2.325/F31 The Evening News with Walter Cronkite:
Correspondence arranged by subject:
Commercials, 1965-1969
Staff, 1965-1968
2.325/F32 General, 1964-1969
Comments on stories, 1966-1970
Assorted, 1962-1993
2.325/F34 Memos, 1966-1972
2.325/F31 Promotional and Research Material, 1965-1966, undated
2.325/F32 "Special Research" done for Salant and Manning, [1968]
2.325/F34 Drafts and scripts, 1967, undated
Assorted materials related to Webster stabbing piece, 1969-1971
2.325/F31 Documentary series:
Where We Stand:
May 16, 1972 episode notes, transcripts, and interviews, 1972
Assorted correspondence, clippings, and notes, 1971-1974, undated
Vietnam: A War that is Finished clippings and correspondence, 1975
2.325/F33 Americans in Indochina:
Correspondence, 1973-1978
Bound "Vietnam Chronology", January 24, 1973
2.325/F32 Program ideas, 1973-1978
2.325/F34 Press coverage, 1978-1979
2.325/F31 Conference materials:
"Report on the Chatham Seminar on Television and Society", 1979
2.325/F33 Ottawa Conference program and correspondence, 1972
Tarrytown Conference, "60 Minutes Storybook History and Documentary Activity Report", 1976
2.325/F31 Press:
Clippings and responses, 1972-1979
2.325/F32 Magazines and clipping of Midgley interview about Agnew Broadside, 1969
2.325/F31 Assorted:
Public television:
Public Television: A Program for Action, 1967
Assorted correspondence and clippings, 1967-1974
Correspondence about awards, 1975-1979
2.325/F32 "Trouble with Rock" deposition for Morris Diamond v. CBS, 1977-1978
Vietnam trip:
Press pass and assorted memorabilia, 1966, undated
2.325/F34 Diary and assorted memorabilia, 1969-1974
Assorted correspondence, scripts, and interview transcripts related to the re-investigation of JFK's assassination, 1978-1979
2.325/F32 Assorted, 1972-1974

2.325/F31 NBC News:
NBC Magazine cost estimates, staff records, and segment lists, 1981-1982
John Chancellor series notes, correspondence, and research, 1981
Correspondence, 1980-1982
Budget information, 1979, undated
Documentary ideas and notes, 1979-1980
2.325/F34 Clippings, brochures, and magazines, 1979-1982

2.325/F32 Other work:
Proposed purchase of magazine, 1971, undated
2.325/F33 Notes, correspondence, and drafts related to "Ideology? No, Television", published in Financier, 1986-1990
How Many Words Do You Want?
Contracts and early draft, 1989
Proposal, titled "How Long Do You Want It…And What Do You Want It To Say", undated
Book, 1989
2 copies
Clippings and correspondence, 1988-1991
Early fiction story drafts, undated
Research and drafts of "Mammon vs. the Lord" aka "Bank Runs…Not What They Used to Be", 1990-1991
2.325/F34 "Where Did the Money Go?" clippings, drafts, and proposal, 1988-1989
Annenberg project, 1987
Duke University project, 1984
Smithsonian project, 1986
Frank Costello article drafts, 1947-1949, undated

2.325/F32 Personal:
Clippings and correspondence, 1966-1983
2.325/F33 "The Century Association" membership nomination and interview transcripts, 1990, undated
Letter and clipping from J. George Midgley, 1978
Obituaries for J. George Midgley, 1979
2.325/F34 Correspondence, 1962-1969
2.325/F32 Curriculum Vitae, 1989
Obituary in Journal News, 2002
Video of memorial service, undated