Chester Robert Huntley was born in Cardwell, Montana, on December 10, 1911. His parents, Percy "Pat" and Blanche Huntley, claimed a homestead on 960 acres of land near Saco in northern Montana. Percy Huntley was a former railroad telegrapher and Blanche was a schoolteacher. The Huntleys built a one-room schoolhouse on their land so Chet could stay close to home and help work the farm. The early 1920s was a very difficult period for wheat farmers in eastern Montana and Percy returned to a telegraphy position with the Great Northern Railroad. The Huntleys sold their Saco homestead in 1924 and the family moved frequently around southern Montana until 1926. In that year they settled in Whitehall, Montana, where Chet graduated from high school in 1929. Although he began his education at Montana State College in Bozeman with plans to become a physician, Huntley left that school in 1932 when he won a scholarship to study oratory at the Cornish School of Arts in Seattle. The experience altered his career plans, and he graduated from the University of Washington in 1934 with a degree in speech and drama.
During his senior year in Seattle, Huntley began working at radio station KPCB where his duties included advertising sales, news writing, and announcing. This job soon led to reporting positions at other radio stations: KHO in Spokane, Washington; KGW in Portland, Oregon; and KFI in Los Angeles. In 1939 Huntley joined the staff of KNX, the CBS Radio affiliate in Los Angeles. At KNX he began writing and producing short news commentary programs. Huntley continued to pursue news commentary projects under various titles throughout his broadcasting career. From 1951 to 1955 he worked for ABC Radio and Television in Los Angeles. Early in 1955, he was hired by the NBC Pacific Division to work as West Coast commentator and reporter for the Today show. In June 1955, NBC transferred him to their New York headquarters with the promise of a major news program.
His first major national assignment came in 1956 when he covered the Republican and Democratic national conventions with David Brinkley. The pairing drew the highest ratings among the three national networks for convention coverage. In October NBC chose the two men to co-anchor the network's fifteen-minute weekday evening news program. The program had an innovative format with Huntley reporting from New York and Brinkley from Washington DC. In 1963 the Huntley-Brinkley Report became one of the first thirty-minute network news programs. During its fourteen-year tenure the Huntley-Brinkley Report was one of the most professionally recognized and highly rated news programs on television, eventually winning seven Emmy and two Peabody awards. Both Brinkley and Huntley received numerous individual broadcasting awards. Huntley was also involved with several other news programs at NBC. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, he edited and narrated a series of Sunday evening news broadcasts. Variously titled Outlook, NBC Kaleidoscope, and Chet Huntley Reporting, the program presented expanded commentary on various news events and issues. Through most of the 1960s he also wrote and narrated a five-minute NBC radio program of editorial commentary titled Chet Huntley's Perspective on the News, with a weekend equivalent named Emphasis: Plain Talk.
Throughout his career Huntley caused controversy by blurring the lines between news reporting and political commentary. He was a vocal critic of Senator Joseph McCarthy and entertainment industry anti-communism activists. His commentary programs spoke out against internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, advocated school integration in Little Rock, Arkansas, and critiqued the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. Huntley defended his commentary programs by declaring that he never allowed his opinions to influence newscasts; however, one industry critic accused him of editorializing with his eyebrows during the Huntley-Brinkley Report. Huntley precipitated other controversies. As the owner of a Montana cattle ranch, Huntley recorded commercials and accepted speaking engagements to promote the beef industry. These activities generated profuse criticism from other professionals concerned about maintaining the image of broadcasting objectivity and integrity. He caused a rift with David Brinkley in 1967 when Huntley crossed an American Federation of Television and Radio Artists' picket line claiming that news anchors did not belong in the same union as "actors, singers, and dancers."
During the height of his NBC broadcasting career Huntley wrote a memoir of his Montana youth. Random House published The Generous Years: Remembrances of a Frontier Boyhood in 1968. He retired from NBC on July 31, 1970. For the final broadcast of the Huntley-Brinkley Report, Huntley initiated the team's signature closing with the words "Good night, David." However, Brinkley altered form with his response "Good-bye, Chet." Before signing off Huntley addressed a final statement to the television audience, "Be patient and have courage, there will be better and happier news some day, if we work at it."
Huntley met his first wife, Ingrid Eleanor Rolin, while living in Seattle. They were married in 1936, had two daughters, and divorced in 1959. Huntley met his second wife, Lewis Tipton "Tippy" Stringer, in 1959. Tippy was a weather announcer for the DC NBC affiliate. They had no children. Huntley stayed active in retirement, broadcasting commentaries, recording commercials for American Airlines, and contracting with the airline to sponsor a new PBS program The American Experience, a series for which Huntley frequently narrated.
Big Sky, Montana, was Huntley's biggest post-retirement project, both in terms of personal investment and financial scale. The project started as a 15,000-acre resort in the Gallatin Valley of south central Montana that eventually became a permanent community. The primary corporation directing Big Sky development was Chrysler Realty, a conglomeration co-funded by Chrysler Motor Corporation, Conoco Oil, Burlington Northern Railroad, Montana Power Co. and Northwest Airlines. The project included one of the first privately owned ski resorts in the United States. Huntley died of cancer March 20, 1974, in Bozeman, Montana, three days before the opening ceremonies for Big Sky.
This collection includes an array of materials by and about Huntley: biographical information, personal and professional correspondence; scripts written for his radio and television projects, speaking engagements, and news commentary projects; press clippings, primarily spanning his years with NBC; obituaries published in diverse outlets; an extensive photographic collection; a small sampling of news and documentary broadcasts; and some three-dimensional memorabilia. The collection also includes extensive information regarding Huntley's role with the Big Sky Resort. Writings include several articles Huntley wrote for magazines and essay collections as well as extensive materials relating to The Generous Years, an autobiographical account of his Montana childhood. Subject files reflect Huntley's varied research interests and clipping files consist of newspaper and magazine articles about Huntley, published through out his professional career and after his death. Big Sky materials include written proposals, correspondence with potential investors, development blue prints, promotional materials, and press clippings. Audio-visual materials include an extensive photographic collection, a small sampling of news and documentary broadcasts, and a few audiotape recordings. Mounted artifacts range from bronze sculptures to framed awards, from appreciation plaques and medals to oversize certificates.
Alternative Forms Available :
Film reels 78(X):10, 78(X):12, and 78(X):13 were transferred to VHS video during original processing. The VHS tape is designated as 78(X):18.Restrictions on Access :
Researchers must use collection in accordance with the policies of Archives and Special Collections, the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, and The University of Montana-Missoula.Restrictions on Use :
Researchers are responsible for using in accordance with 17 U.S.C. and any other applicable statutes. Copyright to the portions of the collection in which Huntley held literary rights was transferred to The University of Montana-Missoula.Preferred Citation :
[Name of document, item number, or photograph number], Chet Huntley Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, The University of Montana-Missoula.
The collection is divided into twelve series:
Series I: Biographical, 0.25 linear feet and partial oversize box, 1928-1975
Series II: General Correspondence, 0.25 linear feet, 1928-1977
Series III: Radio and TV Scripts, 2.75 linear feet, 1942-1974
Series IV: Speeches, 0.5 linear feet, 1964-1973
Series V: Writings, 0.75 linear feet and partial oversize box, 1965-1973
Series VI: Subject, 0.5 linear feet and partial oversize box, 1964-1973
Series VII: Clippings, 1.0 linear feet and partial oversize box, 1957-1974
Series VIII: Big Sky Resort, 0.5 linear feet and partial oversize box, 1965-1975
Series IX: Photographs, 2.0 linear feet and one oversize box, circa1920-1974
Series X: Audio and Moving Images, 18 items, 1963-1974
Series XI: Awards, Memorials, and Memorabilia, 5 oversize boxes, 1954-1974
Series XII: Artwork, 2 items, 1972
Custodial History :
Portions of this collection, mostly television/radio transcripts, were housed in the radio-television collections at Montana State University-Bozeman and the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman prior to accession into the K. Ross Toole Archives collections.Acquisition Information :
The majority of the collection was received from Tippy Huntley in 1979. Additional materials were received from the Museum of the Rockies, 1980; Callie Allison, 1980; and the Special Collections department at Montana State University, 1999. The Chrysler Realty Corporation donated the two bronze sculptures in 1980.Processing Note :
This collection was originally processed in 1981. Additional materials were received after original processing. In 2003 the collection was extensively reorganized and re-described to integrate the additional materials, re-associate most separated materials, and clarify overall structure. The film and video materials in Series Ten were separated out during original processing (designated as Archives Film Collection 12 and Video Collection 11). During 2003 reprocessing these materials were reintegrated into Manuscript Collection 78. Additionally, documents in the awards series were de-framed for preservation purposes. For these paired awards, item numbers were attached to document content descriptions for cross-reference. In Series VIII: Big Sky Resort, embedded photographs had experienced significant deterioration from the original adhesive used for the document and storage conditions prior to donation to the K. Ross Toole Archives. During 2003 reprocessing archival quality photocopies of the photographs were created and placed in the same folder as the original document to best preserve the represented images at the time of reprocessing.Separated Materials :
Some audio materials were separated during original processing and incorporated as oral history collection 64. These tapes present material ranging from radio broadcasts Huntley made during World War II, to an NBC Today Show interview, to multiple radio tributes broadcast shortly before and after his death.Related Materials :
The State Historical Society of Wisconsin holds a significant collection of Chet Huntley papers in its Mass Communication History Center, and there are also Huntley materials in the records of the National Broadcasting Company, Inc.
The John F. Kennedy Library holds a small collection of Chet Huntley papers exclusively regarding reports and commentary following the assassination of President Kennedy.
The Montana Historical Society holds some radio recordings of Huntley in its general Montana History Collections.
Detailed Description of the Collection
0.25 linear feet and partial oversize box
This series includes an array of personal and biographical materials regarding Chet Huntley. Materials include memorabilia from Huntley's various endeavors, items he collected that reflect on his family history, and general biographical documents. Elementary and high school materials include a report card from 1925 and yearbooks ("The Trail") from 1927 and 1929. White House documents in this series consist of two photocopied Nixon Administration staff memos critiquing Huntley's public comments on Administration policies as well as proposing intervention on behalf of the Big Sky Resort development if Huntley would agree to support Montana Republican candidates.
0.25 linear feet
This series includes incoming and outgoing correspondence with a diverse group of public figures and personal friends. Correspondence regarding Huntley's writing projects (series V) and the Big Sky Resort (series VIII) are located within those series. Materials include correspondence with international, national, and state political leaders, famous journalists and entertainers, well-regarded authors, and other American cultural figures. Some of the most notable individuals in this series are Chung Yum Kim (South Korea), Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Hubert H. Humphrey, Mike Mansfield, Arnold Olsen, Ted Kennedy, Barry Goldwater, Nelson Rockefeller, Henry M. Jackson, Dean Rusk, George C. Wallace, Tim Babcock, H.G. Merriam, John Chancellor, Vadim Golovanov, Bob Hope, Joan Crawford, Mitzi Gaynor, Jack Benny, Douglas Fairbanks, Dick Cavett, A. B. Guthrie, Jr., Lady Bird Johnson, and Mrs. Chester W. Nimitz.
2.75 linear feet
This series includes transcripts from Huntley's radio and television programs. Materials are predominantly narrator copy for news broadcasts but a few interview transcriptions are also present. The contents within this series are arranged conceptually and chronologically. Box one contains general materials from both radio and television broadcasts. Often a definite determination of radio or television broadcast could not be established; thus, materials are arranged chronologically based on the best available date information. Box one also includes a script for "Strange and Terrible Times." The film version of this production, 78(X):15, can be found in the Audio and Moving Pictures series of this collection. Boxes two through six are all radio scripts. Perspective, Emphasis, and Horizons were five-minute editorial commentaries for NBC Radio.
0.5 linear feet
This series contains a mixture of typed and handwritten text for speeches Huntley delivered during his career as a newscaster and after retirement. Most documents exhibit editorial changes Huntley inserted up to the moment before delivering the address. Dates are identified in the content description whenever a date could be reliably established. Materials reflect a range of topics from commentary on current events to advocacy for investment proposals.
0.75 linear feet and partial oversize box
This series ranges from manuscript materials to magazine and essay collection articles. Chet Huntley's autobiographical account of growing up in rural Montana, The Generous Years, is prominent in this series. Materials include manuscript drafts, production proofs, promotional materials, and book reviews. This series also includes a mixture of drafts and clipped selections Huntley submitted to national magazines and published essay collections. "Somehow it Works" is a bound photo essay produced by NBC News staff, using the 1964 U.S. Presidential election as a focus for reflections on the American political process.
0.5 linear feet and partial oversize box
Materials in this series are articles, reports, and general documents Huntley collected as an outcome of his professional activities and as research for broadcast scripts and public addresses. The contents of this series reflect some of the most controversial aspects of Huntley's career, such as his opposition to the American Federation of Television Radio Artists (AFTRA) strike and the Federal Communications Commission's investigation into conflict of interest allegations generated by Huntley's concurrent endeavors as a reporter and an investment spokesperson.
1.0 linear feet and partial oversize box
This series includes magazine articles, newspaper columns, and small publications detailing the development of his broadcast career, retirement, economic development projects, and his death. Materials in this series were collected by Chet Huntley, his wife and family, as well as by long time friends. Most of the materials in this series are undated.
0.5 linear feet and partial oversize box
This series contains materials related to Chet Huntley's involvement with the development of Big Sky Resort south of Bozeman, Montana. Materials include property description documents, a U. S. Geologic Survey topographic map, correspondence, publicity packets generated during several different stages of development, press clippings, and "master plan" packets prepared for potential investorsùsome of the latter are bound and others are in folders. Press clippings include an array of newspaper articles, letters to the editor, and magazine features including a significant amount of material regarding local reactions to the project and protests based on environmental concerns. Written materials on Big Sky consist of handwritten notes reflecting on the Huntley's desire to develop the resort. These notes appear to be a draft speech for an investors' conference. The Lone Mountain Ranch property description includes several embedded photographs. These photographs were retained within the document to preserve their original context.
2.0 linear feet and one oversize box
This series contains 433 photographs spanning Chet Huntley's life, with particular emphasis on his years with NBC News and the development of the Big Sky Resort. Photos 78(IX):178 - (IX):244 & 78(IX):384 - 78(IX):432 are a mixture of family photographs, candid images of Huntley during news broadcasts, and professional promotional glossies. For preservation purposes, photos 78(IX):245 - 78(IX):275 were removed from a photo album titled "Chet Huntley in Dayton February 18, 1969." A photocopy of the album cover is included with photo # 78(IX):245. Photos 78(IX):286 - 78(IX):384 and 78(IX):433 are Big Sky development images. This collection includes modern film negative for the following prints 78(IX):1, 78(IX):5, 78(IX):137, 78(IX):138, 78(IX):142, 78(IX):154, 78(IX):205, 78(IX):289, 78(IX):290, 78(IX):291, 78(IX):292, 78(IX):373, 78(IX):377.
This series contains materials from several different media formats ranging from audiocassette tapes to 16 mm film reels. Contents include materials Huntley created during his broadcasting career, materials he collected for personal interest, as well as items of appreciation and memorial. Items 78(X):1 through 78(X):5 are LPs; 78(X):6 is an audio cassette of unknown relationship to Chet Huntley; 78(X):7 and 78(X):8 are reel-to-reel audio tapes; 78(X):9 through 78(X):16 are 16mm film; 78(X):17 is a Fairchild Moviepak Seventy 10 cassette (single-sided film within a cassette case), and 78(X):18 is a VHS cassette duplicating materials on film reels 78(X):10, 78(X):12, and 78(X):13.
The series is divided into two subseries: Audio only, and Audio and Video.
5 oversize boxes
The materials in this series include mounted plaques, medallions, certificates of award and appreciation, honorary degrees, and memorial declarations bestowed upon Chet Huntley as a result of his professional career as well as one item of memorabilia. Three items in this series were bestowed with a parchment certificate. The one item of memorabilia in this series is a button inscribed with "Goodnight David, Goodnight Goliath," relating to Huntley's retirement from NBC News.
This series includes two bronze sculptures of Chet Huntley. The Chrysler Realty Corporation commissioned these sculptures in preparation for the opening of the Big Sky Resort. Derek Wernher completed the sculptures in 1972.