Andy Rooney dies at 92; curmudgeonly commentator on '60 Minutes'
His end-of-show essays turned him into a reluctant celebrity. TV Guide called him 'America's favorite grump.' He retired in October 2011 after 33 years on the show.
Andy Rooney in 1979. Rooney was a fixture on "60 Minutes" until he retired in October after 33 years. (Los Angeles Times / October 23, 2014)
Off-camera controversies or not, Rooney was on "60 Minutes" so long that some critics believed he had overstayed his welcome.
In 1996, Associated Press critic Frazier Moore wrote an open letter to Rooney in which he said that "'60 Minutes' would be better off without you."
Calling Rooney a "chronic fuddy-duddy" whose chief contribution is "ending the show on a sour note," Moore wrote that Rooney's weekly segments are "the product of a brazenly closed mind that does a disservice to the rest of the show."
Despite the criticism, Rooney remained with the program.
When asked about retiring in January, when he turned 91, Rooney, seated in his office at CBS News, told a USA Today reporter: "Retire? From what? Life?"
But retire from "60 Minutes" he finally did.
On Oct. 2, the 92-year-old Rooney made his last regular appearance on the show in which he was interviewed by correspondent Morley Safer, who called him "America's favorite grouch-in-chief."
Rooney's farewell essay was his 1,097th piece for the program.
"This is a moment I've dreaded," he told viewers. "I wish I could do this forever. I can't, though. But I'm not retiring. Writers don't retire. And I'll always be a writer."
The son of a traveling salesman father, Rooney was born Jan. 14, 1919, in Albany, N.Y. He attended the Albany Academy prep school and was a student at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., when he was drafted into the Army in 1941.
He was assigned to the 17th Field Artillery Regiment, part of the 13th Field Artillery Brigade. After shipping out to England, he applied for a reporter's job with the London edition of the Stars and Stripes.
Rooney, who chronicled his four years with the Stars and Stripes in his 1995 book "My War," wrote more than 200 stories for the newspaper.
In the process, Sgt. Rooney flew with the 8th Air Force on the first American bombing raid over Germany and covered the invasion of France after landing on a Normandy beach four days after D-day in June 1944.
Rooney was earning his living freelancing magazine stories when a chance meeting with Arthur Godfrey in an elevator at CBS in New York City in 1949 changed his fortune. Over the next six years, he wrote for Godfrey's daily radio show and his two television programs. Rooney also wrote for CBS News public affairs programs such as "The Twentieth Century."
After teaming up with Reasoner in 1962 as a writer and producer, Rooney won his first Writers Guild of America Award for the Reasoner-narrated "The Great Love Affair," a look at America's obsession with automobiles.
Rooney won his first Emmy Award for his script for "Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed," one of the specials narrated by Bill Cosby in the 1968 CBS News series "Of Black America."
In 2003, he was awarded an Emmy for lifetime achievement.
Rooney's wife of 62 years, Marguerite, whom he called Marge, was a longtime Connecticut high school math teacher. She died in 2004.
He is survived by their four children, Ellen; Brian, a former ABC News correspondent; Emily, who hosts a Boston public-affairs program on PBS; and Martha; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Photos: Andy Rooney | 1919 - 2011