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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Blair leads tributes to Cooke
Alistair Cooke
Cooke presented his weekly show for 58 years
Prime Minister Tony Blair has led the tributes to broadcaster Alistair Cooke, who has died at the age of 95.

Mr Blair said he had been a "big fan" of Cooke's show Letter from America.

"He was really one of the greatest broadcasters of all time, and we shall feel his loss very, very keenly indeed," he told the BBC.

Acting BBC director general Mark Byford said: "Alistair Cooke was one of the greatest broadcasters ever in the history of the BBC."

He added: "He was the outstanding commentator of the 20th Century whose insight, wisdom and unique ability to craft words enabled millions of lists in the UK and around the world to understand the texture of the United States and its people."

Tony Blair
He will be deeply, deeply missed
Tony Blair
Prime Minister
And Mr Blair added: "He was a remarkable man who was broadcasting the Letter from America right up to a few weeks ago. "

Conservative leader Michael Howard said Cooke "enchanted a generation of listeners".

"His letters educated us all about the history, culture and people of our greatest ally," he said.

Director of BBC News Richard Sambrook described his former colleague as "a wonderful broadcaster, combining intelligence, shrewd judgment about the affairs of the world and elegance in his writing".

He added: "For generations of listeners he was a bridge across the Atlantic. We'll all miss him."

Mark Byford
He was the outstanding commentator of the 20th Century
Mark Byford
Acting BBC director general
Cooke's biographer Nick Clarke added his voice to the tributes, saying: "I always assumed he would died in the harness.

"Retirement was a dirty word, he didn't really ever contemplate it because his mind was so active that he though he would just go on until he stopped."

Radio 2 broadcaster Jeremy Vine praised Cooke's "rare ability to put everything into perspective".

"The range of his experiences was awesome, but he always had the personal touch," he said.

The US ambassador in London, William Farish, said Cooke's life had an "extraordinary" impact on the American understanding of Britons.

"His wide-ranging contributions to improved Anglo-American understanding are a testimony to his deep love for both Britain and his adopted homeland," he added.

Tim Blackmore, chairman of the Sony Radio Awards Committee, said: "As a broadcaster, Alistair exemplified the style of making you feel as though he was talking to you only.

Jenny Abramsky
His contribution to BBC Radio was unmatched and above all his relationship with his listeners unique
Jenny Abramsky
BBC director of radio and music

"He was always name-dropping, but these were the circles he moved in - the genuine decision-makers and opinion-formers in American life," added Mr Blackmore.

And George Stone, director of the Television and Radio Industries Club, praised the broadcaster's ability to "transcend the radio broadcasting medium by appealing to everybody".

"He touched on the relationship between us and America perfectly," he added.

"He wasn't controversial, he wasn't outrageous. He was a regular guy but one you have to admire."

Controller of Radio 4 Helen Boaden said Letter From America had been enjoyed by "millions of listeners over many years".

And Jenny Abramsky, BBC director of radio and music, described Cooke's " superb voice and masterly turn of phrase", saying he was " the most brilliant radio chronicler of his age".

"His contribution to BBC Radio was unmatched and above all his relationship with his listeners unique," she said.

"All at BBC Radio are grateful for the extraordinary contribution he has made."

He was wry, wise and always insightful
Helen Boaden
BBC Radio 4 controller

Cooke's writing was remembered by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger.

"For 22 years he was an incomparable New York correspondent for the Guardian - writing in prose that, even today, feels modern in its vividness, informality and assurance," he said.

And Professor Robert Mair, Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, where Cooke studied, called the broadcaster "one of the college's most celebrated graduates."

A special one hour tribute, Remembering Alistair Cooke will be broadcast on BBC Radio Four at 2100 BST on Tuesday 30 March, 2004 and at 2000 BST on Saturday 3rd April, 2004. A World Service tribute is being broadcast at 1030 GMT, 1430GMT (not Europe) and 2130 GMT (Europe) on Tuesday 30 March, 2004.




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Prime Minister Tony Blair
"There was a reflective quality about his broadcast"



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