Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

August 29, 2012

‘Ain’t nobody shooting at us.’

By Keith Kappes - Publisher

Aug. 29, 2012 — It was two years ago that veteran TV newsman Daniel Schorr died at the age of 93.

He was among many legends of broadcast journalism who started as newspaper reporters.

I liked him because he was not just another handsome guy on the tube who read what someone else had written.

He didn’t have a particularly pleasant voice but he always knew his material and had credibility.

Daniel Schorr and I shared an indelible experience in April of 1974 that I recalled recently.

It was the day after devastating tornadoes hit the Louisville area. Severe thunderstorms were spawned across the state in both directions.

It was my responsibility to arrange for Schorr to get from the Lexington airport to the Morehead State University campus.

His plane had been delayed in Washington because of the weather here and we didn’t have time to drive him to Morehead.

Schorr had won several awards covering the Nixon White House and was proud to be on the “enemies list” of the former president. We knew he would have a packed house at Button Auditorium – and he did.

I had no choice but to charter a small plane in Lexington to fly Schorr to Morehead. His agent insisted that I ride in the same plane so they knew it would be safe.

We took off from Bluegrass Airport in a four-seat, single engine plane piloted by a tall, skinny man wearing aviator sunglasses.

Before takeoff, he told me he was a forward observer pilot in Vietnam. I respected him immediately because FO pilots flew over enemy targets in small planes to direct artillery fire. Some were killed, of course.

We battled head winds, updrafts and downdrafts all of the way to Morehead. I was in the co-pilot’s seat and Schorr was in the double seat in the rear, holding tightly to straps on both sides and wearing two seatbelts.

The turbulence pitched us all over the sky and I kept thinking that I was going to die in a plane crash with this famous TV journalist. Somehow, that was not a comforting thought, despite the good company.

As we circled the tiny airport, the turbulence was worse. I turned to look at Schorr and his eyes were closed and his lips were moving. I knew he was praying.

But our pilot was calm. As we descended toward that speck of a runway, I asked him how he managed to stay cool and he said quietly:

“This is a piece of cake. Ain’t nobody shooting at us.”

We went back to Lexington by car.