Gordon Sinclair (1900-1984)

Gordon Sinclair

Year Born: 1900

Year Died: 1984

Year of Induction: 1984

Pioneer – Member of CAB Hall of Fame

Sinclair, Gordon (1900-1984)

Until his death in 1984, the biggest name in Canadian broadcast journalism was that of Gordon Sinclair.

It was a name respected (yet sometimes reviled) by Canadians – a name revered by Americans in all fifty states and around the world.

At 22 in 1922, Gordon Sinclair appeared on the payroll of theToronto Daily Star as a reporter. After four uneventful years, he became Women’s Editor from which position he was rescued after writing a series of articles on hoboes. Duly impressed, his bosses sent him around the world (four times, no less) as a wandering reporter – a series of assignments in the late twenties and the thirties that covered 360,000 miles, through all continents, to most of the world’s countries and on all oceans except the Antarctic.

Of these adventures, he wrote four books : Footloose in India, Cannibal Quest , Loose Among the Devils and Khyber Caravan. In the early part of World War Two, “Sinc” incurred the displeasure of Canada’s senior generals and admirals, and was listed as persona non grata as a war correspondent – a ban that was never lifted.

During World War II, his career took a turn on August 19, 1942, through an event that brought him into radio – the raid on Dieppe. The following day, he was asked to come up with some hurried biographical sketches of leaders in that raid – five of which were fed to a network. The result was a mid-day personality series – Let’s Be Personal – on Canada’s leading radio station, CFRB Toronto, which continued to the time of his death. The following January, he was told by the Toronto Star that he must quit radio or the paper. After 21 years as a newspaper man, he opted for radio and became a free-lancer. His next venture, which lasted for 4 seasons, was a travelling radioshow – Ontario Panorama.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Sinclair joined CFRB’s News Department with a ten-minute newscast at 11:50 am, following his Let’s Be Personal. Three years later, he also took on the 5:50 pm news,and subsequently preceded it with another 5-minute feature – Showbusiness. Sinc’s four daily features on CFRB pulled huge audiences and drew listeners away from other stations in its coverage area during periods when he was on the air.

Granted a leave from CFRB in 1948, Gordon took a fifth trip around the world by way of Japan, China and Malaya, and on to Europe. He saw the take-over of China by the communists and the lifting of the Berlin road blockade by the Russians. He returned to CFRB in ’49 on a day-to-day basis, but it was not until 1960, after being with the station for 16 years, than he signed his first contract.

In 1957, Gordon Sinclair became a charter member of a weekly panel show on the CBC-TV Network – Front Page Challenge – which developed into Canada’s longest-running television program, and which was terminated in 1995.

Gordon Sinclair’s greatest achievement was his CFRB Let’s Be Personal broadcast of June 5, 1973 – a broadcast which echoed around the world and which history will record as one of the most respected tributes from Canada to the people of the United States of America.

The United States had yet to pull out of the stalemated Vietnamese War – a war fought daily on TV, over radio and in the press. The war had divided the American people, and at home and abroad it seemed everyone was lambasting the United States. Outraged by what he saw and heard that morning, in his noon-hour broadcast Sinclair rose to the defence of the American people- and his voice was heard around the world,  as no Canadian had been before, or since. For weeks afterwards, his words were repeated over and over again from thousands of radio stations – were read into the U. S. Congressional Records several times and, at the insistence of the American people, recorded for their keeping for posterity.

(The phenomenon of Gordon Sinclair’s “The Americans” is recounted under “News” in the General Directory – Unique Stories. )

Gordon Sinclair received many honours and awards from governors of several U.S. states, including being made an honorary citizen of North Carolina. Apart from American awards, for his exceptional role as a Canadian, in 1979, Gordon was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. Previously, on his 70th birthday, June 3,1970, the Gordon Sinclair Award was inaugurated by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television for “outspoken opinions and integrity in broadcasting”. In 1972, he was named to Canada’s News Hall of Fame. In 1974, he received the Gordon Love News Trophy. Also, in ’74, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award of the Radio/Television News Directors’ Association “for Challenging and Courageous Commentary”.

Other Gordon Sinclair books included Bright Paths to Adventure, (1950), Signpost to Adventure (1952), Will The Real Gordon Sinclair Please Stand Up? (1966) and Will The Real Gordon Sinclair Please Sit Down? (1975).

An amusing “history” of CFRB, written by Donald Jack, was published in the 70s, titled Sinc, Betty (Kennedy – see biography) and the  Morning Man ( Wally Crouter – see biography).

Gordon Sinclair died of a heart attack on May 17th 1984. Later that year he was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame.

Written by J. Lyman Potts – June, 1984