Page last updated at 15:14 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 16:14 UK

BBC journalist Wheeler dies at 85

Some of the finest moments in Charles Wheeler's career as a journalist

Veteran journalist Sir Charles Wheeler, the BBC's longest-serving foreign correspondent, has died at the age of 85 after suffering from lung cancer.

A reporter, presenter and producer, he covered stories such as the assassination of Martin Luther King and Watergate when based in Washington.

He spent eight years in the US capital, also reporting on the shooting of presidential candidate Robert Kennedy.

He was considered "a legend", BBC director general Mark Thompson said.

I can remember his reports from around the world as a kid growing up; he was a fantastic broadcaster
Michael Byron-Hehir, Manchester

"His integrity, his authority and his humanity graced the BBC's airwaves over many decades," he added.

"He is utterly irreplaceable but like everyone else, I am privileged to have worked with him."

Sir Charles, who was born in the German city of Bremen, began his media career at the Daily Sketch newspaper.

He ran errands at the now-defunct publication, having been inspired to become a journalist by a film he had seen as a teenager.

'Magnificent' man

After five years in the Marines at the end of World War II, he joined the BBC in 1947 and spent 11 years as a writer and reporter for the BBC World Service.

Spells as the corporation's correspondent in South Asia and Germany followed, before his move to Washington.

He was also known as one of the faces of the BBC's Panorama and Newsnight programmes.

Sir Charles Wheeler

He received a knighthood for services to journalism in 2006, and won two Baftas and several Royal Television Society awards - including one in 1997 for a documentary on the murder of London teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Mark Damazer, the controller of BBC Radio 4, said Sir Charles was a "magnificent" man who "embodied all that is best in the BBC's journalism".

"He had a brilliant eye and an unequalled ability to convey what he saw and what he knew."

Mr Damazer said Sir Charles's work for Radio 4 over the past decade "demonstrated his astonishing range, dealing with central and eastern Europe, but also - and superbly - with the legacy at home of World War II".

He had been working "almost until he died" on a programme for Radio 4 on the Dalai Lama, Mr Damazer added.

As a reporter Sir Charles had covered the flight of the Dalai Lama after the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1959.

News 'dumbed down'

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband described Sir Charles as "one of the great reporters of the television age".

"With his ability to combine vivid reporting with fearless but fair judgement, he made an unforgettable mark on so many of the great stories of his day."

Charles Wheeler in 1958
Sir Charles admitted that he preferred being in the field to doing studio work
In recent years, Sir Charles was critical of the direction of modern broadcasting.

He claimed in 2000 that television news was "dumbing down" and said the BBC had "lost its way with news".

He met his future wife, Dip Singh, during his four-year posting in Delhi. They married in 1962 and had two daughters.

One of them, Shirin, works in Brussels for the BBC as a correspondent on European politics.

The other, Marina, is a lawyer and is the wife of London's mayor, Boris Johnson.

BBC Radio 4 will be paying tribute with a special 45-minute programme, Charles Wheeler In His Own Wordsat 1100 BST on Saturday, 5 July or afterwards at the Listen Againpage.

Obituary: Sir Charles Wheeler
04 Jul 08 |  Entertainment
In pictures: Sir Charles Wheeler
04 Jul 08 |  In Pictures
Charles Wheeler: Your memories
04 Jul 08 |  Have Your Say

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