Pierre Berton (1920-2004)

Pierre Berton
Pierre Berton

Year Born: 1920

Year Died: 2004


Berton, Pierre (1920-2004)

Journalist, editor, veteran broadcaster and author of 46 books, Pierre Berton was born in Whitehorse, YT July 12, 1920 and raised in the Yukon. He worked in Klondike mining camps during his university years and spent four years in the army, rising from private to captain/instructor at the Royal Military College in Kingston.

He was the chief announcer in 1940 for the University of British Columbia Radio Society, the closed circuit forerunner of campus station CITR-FM. He spent his early newspaper career at the Vancouver News-Herald, starting in 1942, where at 21 he was the youngest city editor on any Canadian daily. He moved to Toronto in 1947, and at the age of 31 was named managing editor of Maclean’s Magazine. In 1957 he became a key member of the CBC’s public affairs flagship program Close-Up and a permanent panelist on Front Page Challenge, a CBC anchor program for 39 years.

He joined The Toronto Star as associate editor and columnist in 1958, leaving in 1962.  By the summer of 1963, the Pierre Berton Hour television series was a five-day fixture 11pm – midnight Monday through Friday on the fledgling CTV Network. When the series was not renewed, Pierre simply moved down the Queen Elizabeth Way to Hamilton, where the Pierre Berton Show would continue to be produced,  broadcast and seen nationally in syndication for another ten years.

In 1966, author/broadcaster/evangelist Charles Templeton joined Pierre for a daily radio series called Dialogue, in each episode of which the protagonists would debate and often argue fiercely with one another over a current news story. The program started on CFRB Toronto, and after four years moved over to another Toronto radio station, CKEY, where it ran until 1984. 

Meanwhile, in 1974 Pierre was being seen on the then new Global Television System hosting My Canada,  a short series in which the host told a series of stories about the history of the country. 

 He later appeared as host and writer on several CBC series, including My Country, The Great Debate, Heritage Theatre, and The Secret of My Success. He received numerous honorary degrees and served as the Chancellor of Yukon College.

Berton won the Governor General’s Award for nonfiction for The Mysterious North (1956); Klondike (1958), a narrative of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898; and The Last Spike (1972). He was awarded the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour (1959); the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for non-fiction (1981); the Canadian Booksellers Award (1982); the Biomedical Science Ambassador’s Award (1997); and the John Drainie Award for significant contribution to television broadcasting in Canada (1999).

Pierre Berton died of  heart failure on November 30th 2004.

Written by Gord Lansdell – August, 2001