January 26, 1979 – Nelson Rockefeller: Dead At 70

Nelson Rockefeller - why is this man smiling?
Nelson Rockefeller – Why is this man smiling?

January 26, 1979 – CBS Hourly News – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

January 26, 1979 – The big news of the day came towards the end of the day. Bulletins hit the airwaves that former four-time New York Governor and vice-President Nelson Rockefeller had died suddenly of a massive heart attack at his office while working on his book. He was 70.

Rockefeller, who had no history of heart problems and who was reported to be in excellent health, died suddenly while in the process of editing an Art book he was working on, after returning to his office after dinner that evening. Since leaving public office after the 1976 election. Nelson Rockefeller was spending more time with his Art collection and was getting involved in the reproduction business.

The news came as a shock – 70, though no youth, word of his death was still surprising, considering his otherwise clean bill of health. After the initial reports and tributes came flooding in, so too did revelations that his heart attack may really have been brought on by “too much fun”. It was later discovered that Rockefeller was in fact editing his book, but he wasn’t alone and he wasn’t actually in his office. Reports later surfaced that he was, in reality with his 25 year-old assistant Megan Marshack, a woman he had reportedly been having an affair with, and he died suddenly in the midst of having sex. Although the reports were never substantiated, there were corroborating accounts which led to coitus interruptus as a distinct possibility. Although an autopsy would have revealed the exact cause of death, family members opted for cremation before speculation got out of hand and the matter was quietly put to rest.

But the scandal part of Rockefeller’s death wouldn’t be revealed for several more days. At the time of this newscast, shortly after his death announcement, reports came in of efforts to revive him and that he was pronounced dead at the Hospital.

Still, a public servant for most all his life, a scion of the Rockefeller family, which at the time one of richest families in America, Rockefeller had unsuccessfully run for President in 1960, 1964 and 1968. He had been Governor of New York four times, beginning in 1959 until 1973 and was appointed by President Ford as his vice-President shortly after Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency, leaving appointed vice-President Gerald Ford to assume the reigns of office.

A dramatic career with more than its fair share of controversies, the passing of Nelson Rockefeller, no what the conditions were, was still a shock for the country.

And that’s what happened on this January 26, 1979 as reported by CBS Radio News on the Hour.

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