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CNN Correspondent John Holliman dies in car crash


'One of the most loved members of the CNN family'

September 12, 1998
Web posted at: 7:41 p.m. EDT (2341 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- CNN National Correspondent John Holliman, one of the 'boys of Baghdad' who reported exclusively from Iraq as bombs fell during the Persian Gulf War, died early Saturday from injuries he received in a car accident near his home in suburban Atlanta. He was 49.

"John Holliman was one of a kind -- a CNN original," said Tom Johnson, chairman of CNN News Group. "He passionately loved his family, his friends and his job. John's smile, his humor and his contagious optimism brightened the lives of all who met him."

Trying on a NASA spacesuit  
A news conference at the Reagan White House  
Reporting during a hurricane  
Holliman identifies the high gain antenna on a model of Mars Global Surveyor  
John, his wife, Dianne, and son, Jay  

"He was simply one of the most loved members of the CNN family," Johnson said.

Holliman was driving near his home in Snellville, east of Atlanta, when he apparently tried to pass another car in a no-passing zone and hit a pickup truck head-on, said Gwinnett County Police Sgt. Jeff Sligar.

Holliman died instantly. There was no indication of alcohol use or excessive speed, Sligar said. The driver of the pickup, Richard Henry Wesner, was treated and released from a nearby hospital. A passenger, Eric Wesner, 10, suffered broken bones.

Member of CNN's original reporting corps

Holliman joined CNN in 1980 as part of the network's original reporting team and was the first correspondent hired for the Washington, D.C., bureau.

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He was one of only three journalists reporting from Baghdad in January 1991 when the allied air attack began on Iraq's capital during the Gulf War. He and colleagues Peter Arnett and Bernard Shaw played critical roles in CNN's coverage of the crisis, which won a National Headliner Award, the George Foster Peabody Award and a Golden Microphone Award.

"When the bombing started, we immediately lost power, so we thought we wouldn't be able to broadcast," Peter Arnett said. "But then Holliman went to our equipment and just switched out the batteries, and we were able to communicate for several days like that with the hounds of hell falling on our heads."

"He's the one who made that first broadcast possible. He had a real knowledge of broadcasting," Arnett said.

Set to anchor John Glenn's return to space

At the time of his death, Holliman served as an Atlanta-based national correspondent. One of his beats was to cover space exploration, and he was the lead reporter for the Pathfinder mission to Mars in the summer of 1997.

Among his upcoming assignments was to co-anchor, with Walter Cronkite, John Glenn's return to space.

"I expect he'll be up there watching the mission from the heavens, probably shouting, 'Holy cow, what a sight!'" Johnson said.

In June 1989, Holliman covered China's historic student demonstrations, the subsequent government crackdown and Chinese Communist Party purge. That fall, he served as CNN's on-site reporter as Hurricane Hugo ravaged the Carolinas.

In addition to Holliman's network duties, he had been writing columns for CNN Interactive. He completed his final column on September 9.

During his 18-year tenure at CNN, Holliman also covered agriculture and the White House, and had served as chief daytime Washington anchor.

Came to CNN from AP radio

Before joining CNN, Holliman was an agriculture editor at The Associated Press Radio Network, where he worked from 1974 until 1980. In that position, he covered all aspects of agricultural and food-related news of interest to farmers and consumers.

He also wrote a daily column for AP's broadcast wire as well as farm stories for AP's national newspaper wire. In addition, he taught a course at the graduate school of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Atlanta.

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Brad Kalbfeld, deputy director and managing editor for AP Broadcast, said Holliman had an ability to connect with listeners, which he translated to viewers when he made the jump to television.

"He loved to put himself in the position of the audience," Kalbfeld said. "He was one of those people who could write pieces and collect tape about what listeners cared about."

Holliman's journalistic career also included stints as a newscaster and reporter for Metromedia Radio News and WASH-FM in Washington. In addition, he had worked at a number of radio stations, including WSB-AM/FM in Atlanta and WGAU-Radio and WRFC-Radio in Athens, Georgia.

Holliman received a 1976 Peabody Award for his documentary, "The Garden Plot -- Food as a Weapon in International Diplomacy." A native of Thomaston, Georgia, he earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Georgia.

Holliman is survived by his wife, Dianne, and his son, Jay.

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