Don Farmer, a TV news veteran who was one of CNN’s original anchors, died Wednesday in Naples, Fla., after battling a rare neurological disease known as PSP.
Farmer and his wife, fellow broadcast journalist Chris Curle, were among the first anchors hired in 1980 when Ted Turner launched CNN. Among Farmer’s early assignments was a week of live coverage from Cuba that included an interview with then leader Fidel Castro.
Farmer got his start in TV at NBC News and moved to ABC News in 1965. He covered the Civil Rights movement and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and logged an interview with all four Beatles at the height of Beatlemania.
Farmer grew up in the St. Louis area and earned a journalism degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia. He was working on a master’s degree when he was offered a job in NBC News’ election unit.
Farmer met Curle in the newsroom of ABC’s Houston O&O, where she was a reporter and he was the network correspondent on assignment.
After the two married, Farmer was sent overseas by ABC News for stints in London and Germany. He eventually returned to Washington, D.C. to cover Congress.
Early on at CNN, Farmer and Curle hosted the two-hour daily program “Take Two.” CNN was a startup venture when cable TV was also in the early stages. CNN faced impossible odds to in trying to compete against the established competition at the Big Three networks.
“My admiration for Don’s journalistic skills and integrity increased every day,” wrote producer David Guibault, an ABC News colleague of Farmer’s who went on to be senior producer of “Take Two.” “Don was a wonderful writer and a masterful interviewer. I am very proud of the work we did together under very challenging circumstances with very meager resources.”
In 1987, Farmer and Curle shifted from CNN to anchor posts at WSB-TV Atlanta. Farmer continued to report from far-flung locations. He covered the start of the Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and unrest in Central America. Justin Farmer, the couple’s son, is now a WSB-TV news anchor.
“Being the son of Don Farmer was fascinating, incessantly enlightening and awesome,” Justin Farmer wrote on Facebook. “I vividly remember being quite young and having him explain to me such topics as Watergate, America’s bicentennial, the hostage situation in Iran, among others.”
Farmer and Curle retired to Florida in 1997. The two worked as local newspaper columnists and radio hosts. They also co-wrote two novels set against the backdrop of the news business, “Fatal Ambition” and “Deadly News.”
In addition to his wife of 49 years and son, Farmer’s survivors include a daughter, five grandchildren and a sister.
The family requests that donations be made to Avow Hospice of Naples or CurePSP.