Veteran BBC and PBS host Alistair Cooke dies. The longtime ''Masterpiece Theater'' host, whose radio show ''Letter From America'' ran for 58 years, was 95

By Gary Susman
March 30, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Less than a month after airing his last ”Letter From America” and retiring from radio at age 95, broadcaster Alistair Cooke died Monday at his home in New York, CNN reports. His death ended a broadcasting career that had spanned 70 years at the BBC and 3,000 weekly broadcasts of ”Letter From America,” in which he explained the curious ways of his adopted homeland to the folks back in England. Cooke had also enjoyed a long association with PBS, where he hosted ”Masterpiece Theater” for 22 years.

Cooke began his broadcasting career with the BBC in 1934 and began serving as its American correspondent four years later. (He became a U.S. citizen in 1941.) ”Letter,” launched in 1946, was supposed to last just 13 weeks. Instead, it lasted 58 years and made him hugely popular on both sides of the Atlantic. His radio success led to a career on American television, first as host of the arts program ”Omnibus” from 1952 to 1961 and then on ”Masterpiece” from 1971 to 1992. Over the years, he earned four Emmys. He also wrote a dozen books, including the 1973 bestseller ”Alistair Cooke’s America.”