Julian Goodman dies at 90; former NBC president

Julian Goodman, the former NBC president who helped establish Chet Huntley and David Brinkley as a well-known news team and led the network from 1966 to 1974, has died. He was 90.

Goodman died Monday after a brief illness in Juno Beach, Fla., where he lived after retiring as chairman of NBC’s board in 1979, the network said.

Goodman joined NBC on the night news desk in Washington in 1945. He rose through the ranks to become executive vice president of NBC News at the time when Huntley and Brinkley were competing with Walter Cronkite on CBS. He produced the second presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960, guided the network’s TV coverage of several presidential conventions and oversaw the early TV news magazine “David Brinkley’s Journal.”


As network president, he gave Johnny Carson a long-term contract to stay on the “Tonight” show and helped make the American Football League a force by broadcasting the upstart league. NBC televised Super Bowl III in 1969, in which the AFL’s New York Jets beat the highly favored Baltimore Colts of the NFL.

Goodman was also at the helm during an infamous football incident, when NBC switched to the family movie “Heidi” on a Sunday night in 1968 with one minute to go in a Jets-Oakland Raiders game. The Raiders, who had been trailing by three points, came back to score two touchdowns and beat the Jets in a thrilling finish, infuriating TV viewers across the country who missed the action.

“It was a forgivable error committed by human beings who were concerned about the children expecting to see ‘Heidi,’” Goodman said the next day after a barrage of complaints to the network. “I missed the end of the game as much as anyone else.”

Goodman later expressed pride at being included on former President Nixon’s “enemies list.”

“Julian was one of the great statesmen of network television, a journalist who rose through the ranks to the highest levels of NBC — and always stayed true to the place of public service as an obligation of what we do,” former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw said.

Julian Byrn Goodman was born May 1, 1922, in Glasgow, Ky., and while a teenager began working as a reporter for the local newspaper. In 1939 he enrolled in what is now Western Kentucky University, majoring in English, but joined the Army after World War II broke out.

After the war he went to work for WRC, NBC’s radio station in Washington, D.C., as a news writer and returned to college, studying economics at George Washington University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1948.

He was named director of news and special events for NBC’s radio network in 1950. The next year his duties expanded to include TV news, and he became vice president of the news division in 1961.

Goodman is survived by his wife of 65 years, Betty; their four children and six grandchildren.