LOS ANGELES — Lew Wood, who marched with Martin Luther King, covered John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and was a news anchor for NBC’s ‘‘Today’’ show during a distinguished broadcast career that began with the dawn of television, died of kidney failure at a hospice in Riverside County Wednesday. He was 84.
Mr. Wood was perhaps best known as ‘‘Today’s’’ third news anchor, succeeding Frank Blair in 1975. Although Blair had held the job for 22 years, Mr. Wood left after just a year, going into public relations. He stayed in that field until retiring in 2006.
‘‘He always joked that when he left the ‘Today’ show, it was due to illness and fatigue — they were sick and tired of him,’’ his daughter said with a laugh Thursday.
With the show’s producers deciding to take the program’s news report in a different direction, Mr. Wood moved on to public relations, training corporate executives how to present themselves to the news media and working for the American Legion and other organizations.
Before taking the ‘‘Today’’ show job, he had anchored the news for WNBC in New York and worked as a correspondent for CBS.
For the latter network, he reported on the 1960s Civil Rights movement, accompanying King on one of his marches. He was also in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, as part of the CBS team covering Kennedy’s campaign swing through Texas.
Mr. Wood had covered the breakfast speech Kennedy made in Fort Worth, then snapped a personal photo of the president greeting well-wishers. After Kennedy’s motorcade left for Dallas, Mr. Wood headed to a restaurant for lunch, stopping briefly to call fellow correspondent Dan Rather, who was covering the Kennedy motorcade.
In a remembrance posted on the website reportersnotebook.net, Mr. Wood recalled Rather telling him, ‘‘Hold On, Lew, don’t go away,’’ then quickly coming back on the line to say that the president had been shot, and that he should go to the hospital.
‘‘Which he did,’’ said Rather, who spoke warmly of Mr. Wood on Thursday, remembering him as a fine reporter and colleague.
Mr. Wood, who earned a degree in speech and broadcasting from Purdue University, began his career in radio at WDZ-AM in Decatur, Ill., in 1952. He moved to television a year later, joining WSBT Radio and TV in South Bend, Ind., where he worked as both a reporter and a cameraman and anchored the evening news.