Chris Kelley, a veteran national broadcast radio and T.V. reporter with CBS Evening News, died at age 83 on May 6, 2022 at Presbyterian Medical Center, Charlotte, NC.
Kelley’s career in broadcast journalism began when posted to the Canal Zone in 1961 as an Army surveyor. Hating working in the jungles of Panama, he learned of an opening at the Armed Forces Network radio and television station, and was quickly hired after a successful audition, becoming the T.V. anchorman for the evening and night newscasts. After his discharge, he returned to the Washington, DC area to rejoin his wife and newborn daughter, taking a position at Dun & Bradstreet as a financial reporter. However, broadcasting beckoned him, and in 1965, was hired as a radio news reporter at WICC in Bridgeport Conn., close to his parental home of Westport, Conn. He rose to become their News Director, and being in the New York City media market moved on after five years in 1970 to WCBS News Radio in New York. There he continued his work as a radio news reporter, but on a much broader scale.
After a short time, Kelley became an on-camera T.V. reporter for CBS News’ flagship broadcast, CBS Evening News under the helm of both Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. As a member of the core national and international correspondent team, Kelley’s reporting gained formidable attention.
From that point in his career, and from the vantage points of his postings in New York, Chicago, and the Pentagon in Washington DC, he was a witness to history, reporting nationally for CBS on many important stories of the day. He covered a variety of news stories, from airplane hijackings, train wrecks, Boston’s forced school busing crisis, the Wounded Knee Indian Reservation standoff, farm stories in the Midwest with tractor caravans to Washington, Jimmy Hoffa’s reported disappearance in the Detroit area (complete with on-site threats from local tough guys to stay away from the story), the Pope’s tour of Great Britain, major league baseball strikes, Philippe Petite’s famous tightrope walk between the World Trade Center twin towers, the invasion of Granada in the Caribbean, the world tour of Defense Secretary Weinberger at the end of the Reagan administration, and on. Kelley had many other fascinating experiences while on Dan Rather’s team, but many fine reporters left CBS after the Corporate Division determined that the News Division had to turn a profit and instituted a large staff downsizing.
In 1988, Kelley then migrated to his final T.V. reporting and anchoring job at the NBC network’s KPRC affiliate in Houston, Texas, where he continued to cover and report on the news of the day. He spoke admirably about many local and regional stories and interviews he reported on, including a series he did on the World War II POW camps that had been set up across Texas for German soldiers of the Afrika Korps and Italian prisoners of war captured in North Africa. With many changes occurring in the T.V. news reporting industry in the early 1990’s, along with local T.V. news trends aiming towards streamlining stories and elimination of documentaries, Kelley returned to Washington. His reporting and experience with the oil industry in Houston had uniquely positioned him to become a Media Consultant at the American Petroleum Institute, coaching and teaching oil industry executives the ins and outs of dealing with the media. After 4 years with API, he retired to the Washington, DC area, and subsequently moved to a more genteel life and the warmer climate of South Carolina, taking up residence in the greater Charlotte area.
Christopher Francis Valentine Kelley was born on March 24, 1939 in London, England. He was the son of Frank R. Kelley, a New York Herald Tribune foreign correspondent and Venetia Helene (née Dormer) Kelley, a British subject and Vogue Magazine society and fashion columnist.
After graduating from The American Community School in 1957 in Paris, France, where he lived, and where his father and family were posted, he attended Villanova University in the U.S. and earned a B.S. degree in Managerial Economics in 1961. He served in the U.S. Army in the Panama Canal Zone from 1961 to 1964.
He is survived by his wife Olgia (née Abache) Kelley, his stepdaughter, Olgia Carta (Ray) Kenner and a step grandson, Yousseff Kenner. He is also survived by his children from two previous marriages, Laura Kelley, Kevin (Jess) Kelley, Patrick Kelley and Matthew Kelley. Other survivors include his brother, Peter J. D. (Patricia) Kelley and nieces Elizabeth (Michael) Kanick, Margaret Kelley, and nephew Peter Jr. (Katie) Kelley. He is predeceased by a younger brother, David Kelley.
Memorial contributions may be made to the WoundedWarriorProject.org and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at stjude.org.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Christopher Kelley, please visit our floral store.