An Apropos Prize for Bill Moyers He Says Genesis of His Career Was His Childhood

Article excerpt

IN a way, Bill Moyers muses, the Texas drawls of his boyhood neighbors started him on the long journalistic journey that led to President Bill Clinton hanging a medal around his neck earlier this month.

Moyers recalls how his television career of deep conversations with poets and preachers and philosophers and politicians and other people of thought and talent all came about "because of where I grew up" - Marshall, Texas.

"I grew up listening to the sound of the human voice. My mother talking with Mrs. Platt, our next-door neighbor, an elderly woman. . . . Farmers who came to town at the courthouse square on Saturday afternoons, whites on one side, blacks on the other. The exciting pitch of their voices as they talked about the size of their watermelons. . . . Hearing Churchill on the radio. Murrow on the radio. . . . "I was affected by people who did try to affirm what is best in us." Moyers, 63, was among an assortment of artists and humanists who were presented national awards by the president and Hillary Rodham Clinton. He received the National Endowment of the Humanities' Frankel Prize, given to five Americans each year "who have made outstanding contributions to the public's understanding of history, literature, philosophy and other humanities disciplines." For nearly three decades, the former White House press secretary for President Lyndon B. Johnson has hosted award-winning public broadcasting series such as "Genesis," "A World of Ideas" and "A Walk Through the 20th Century." He has won more than 30 Emmys and was elected to the Television Hall of Fame. Moyers "tilts at the central questions of our civilization," said the Endowment in announcing the award. He searches "for a symmetry in life, a meaning." A graduate of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as well as the University of Texas, Moyers smiled as Clinton joked about their shared religious roots. Moyers "is a living rebuke to everybody's preconceptions about Baptist preachers," said Clinton. …