Sander Vanocur

Date of Birth

January 8, 1928

Date of Death

September 16, 2019

City of Death

Santa Barbara

Legendary broadcaster Sander Vanocur passed away on September 16th, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California. He was 91 years old.

After attending his beloved Northwestern University and the London School of Economics, Vanocur’s illustrious reporting career included assignments for the Manchester Guardian, the New York Times, NBC News, PBS, the Washington Post, ABC News, and the History Channel.

Vanocur made his mark as one of the most respected political reporters of his generation. Among many accomplishments, he was one of the panelists at the very first presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. During this debate, he asked the Vice President a tough question challenging Nixon’s claims of extensive White House experience. Nixon later wrote that this question would plague him for the rest of the 1960 campaign. As president, Nixon put Vanocur on his nefarious “enemies list.” The reporter called this one of his proudest achievements.

Vanocur also covered the Vietnam war for NBC News. On a plane leaving Vietnam after a 1965 assignment, Vanocur started crying because he foresaw the sorrow which lay ahead.

But Vanocur’s favorite story to cover was America’s civil rights movement. In 1967, he conducted a revealing interview with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In that interview, a pensive Dr. King said his “dream” had turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Sander Vanocur is survived by his wife, Virginia Backus Vanocur of Montecito. Also, by his stepdaughter, Daphne Wood Hicks of New York City and her children, Standish and Henry. Vanocur had two children from a previous marriage, Christopher of Salt Lake City, and Nicholas, who predeceased him.

On one occasion, his son Christopher had the honor of introducing his father before a speaking engagement. He asked his dad what he should say. Vanocur Sr. told him,
“Son, use lots of adjectives.”

With that in mind, here are some adjectives which best describe Sander Vanocur: brilliant, courageous, eloquent, witty, complex, charismatic, driven, passionate, historic, and loving.

Memorial services will be private.


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