Early Life Through College

Born April 25, 1908 to Roscoe and Ethel Murrow in Polecat Creek, North Carolina,  Egbert Roscoe Murrow was the fourth son (the Murrow’s first son died) in his Quaker family. His older brothers were Lacey and Dewey. The family lived in a small log cabin with no running water or electricity. Roscoe Murrow worked very hard as a farmer bringing in only a few hundred dollars a year.

Even though he was relatively successful, Roscoe longed for a different life. To that end, he moved his family across the country to a small town 30 miles south of the Canadian border, in Blanchard, Washington on Samish Bay. Roscoe went to work for the railroad eventually becoming a locomotive engineer—which he loved.

During this time, Egbert changed his name and started going by Edward or Ed. Blanchard was very small with a very small school but the Murrow boys excelled. While in school Ed was in the school orchestra, glee club, played baseball and basketball as well as president of the student body.

As if he didn’t have enough to do in high school, teacher Ruth Lawson encouraged Ed to join the debate team. His team was the best around and he was the star. The debate team also introduced Ed to his interest in the issues of the day.

After graduating high school the family moved one more time to Forks, Washington. Murrow had no money for college so he spent a year working in the local Forks logging camps. In addition to the jokes and songs he learned in the camps—jokes and songs he used for the rest of his life—he learned about the struggles between labor and big business.

In 1926, Murrow followed his brothers to Pullman, Washington to Washington State College (now Washington State University). While there he majored in Speech. His mentor in college and, indeed, throughout his career was speech teacher Ida Lou Anderson. She challenged her students to find the meaning behind the poems and stories she assigned her students.  Murrow was her star student.

At Washington State, Murrow excelled just like in high school. He debated, he was an actor, president of the student body, ROTC leader, president of his fraternity, student body president, and president of the Pacific Student Association. In 1929, he went to the National Student Federation of America (NSFA) convention where he gave a speech that moved those in attendance to elect him president.