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Obituaries

Arthur Lord, 60; Producer Covered Major Stories in Three Decades With NBC News

September 28, 2002|ELAINE WOO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Arthur Lord, an Emmy-winning NBC News producer who covered many of the major stories of the last four decades, including the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Apollo moon landings and the Iran hostage crisis, died Wednesday at UCLA Medical Center. He was 60.

His family did not disclose the cause of death but said he had been hospitalized for more than two months for multiple ailments.

Lord was a New York native and graduate of the University of Florida who began working at NBC in 1966 after a three-year stint in the Air Force as a public information officer. Hired as a news writer and producer, he wrote reports for some of the network's top anchors, including Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and Frank McGee.

In 1971 the network made him an on-air correspondent and sent him to Saigon to cover the war in Vietnam. He filed daily battlefield reports for 18 months in the war zone, leaving to head the network's Houston bureau.

He returned in 1975 as Saigon bureau chief. During the chaotic closing days of the war, he arranged the evacuation of 104 of NBC's Vietnamese employees and their family members. He escorted large groups of evacuees to the airport, where nervous airport guards fired at their vans, and he bribed officials with $100 bills to get the NBC contingent to safety.

Lord often said the rescue, dubbed "Operation Peacock" after the network's longtime symbol, was his proudest accomplishment.

His wife gave birth to their daughter Sharon at an Army field hospital in Saigon. The Lords also adopted a Vietnamese teenager, Marlene, who was the daughter of their nanny.

Back in the U.S., Lord headed NBC News' Burbank bureau from 1979 to 1982. He closed his career at the network as a producer for special projects, coordinating coverage of papal visits and presidential trips.

Lord, who won two Emmys and a Peabody, was often a vocal critic of journalism practices.

He called the media's saturation coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial "one of the most disgraceful periods in U.S. journalism."

"This is a stakeout. I'm not reporting. I'm collecting," he told a Houston Chronicle reporter in 1994 when he supervised the network's "O.J. unit" of eight full-time staffers and a dozen outside consultants. "There's such a drive to put something on the air every day. We've even interviewed the guy who loads the candy machines at the jail."

"He was a man known for his extreme integrity," said NBC correspondent George Lewis. "He was very committed to honesty and in his dealings with other people he was always known as a straight shooter. He was one of a kind in this business."

Lord was one of three NBC News staffers chosen to participate in an internal investigation of a 1993 "Dateline NBC" report on the safety of General Motors pickup trucks in which the producers rigged a truck explosion. Then-NBC News President Michael Gartner resigned over the scandal, along with other news division employees involved in the story.

Lord retired from NBC in 1996 but remained active in professional circles as president of the Los Angeles Press Club, raising scholarship funds for student journalists.

He is survived by his wife, Susan, and a son, Michael, both of Tarzana; two daughters, Sharon of Santa Monica and Marlene of Houston; and two grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. The family has requested that any donations be sent to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Ave., Montgomery, AL 36104.

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