First came the doorknob.
The workers in the office of Washington State University’s school of communication didn’t know what to expect when the first of two shipments arrived from New York last spring. But they opened the box, took out the old doorknob and passed it around, wondering what sort of door it belonged to, wondering whose hands had touched it.
A few weeks earlier Darby Baldwin, an assistant in the dean’s office, had called two CBS retirees on the East Coast because the husband had written a thoughtful opinion piece about his time working with Edward R. Murrow. It turned out that Joe Wershba was a close colleague of WSU’s most famous journalism alumnus. His wife Shirley also worked as a news writer and producer at CBS during the time Murrow took on Senator Joe McCarthy and for years after. “We were all worshippers of Edward R. Murrow,” says Shirley Wershba, calling from their home in New York.
When Murrow was at CBS, the big black metal door to his office was rarely closed, unless he was writing an end piece for one of his shows or dictating something important. “He was very accessible,” says Shirley. “We worshipped him as if he was a man on the mountain, but he was always available to us.
In 1965, after Murrow left CBS and shortly before he died, the network moved to the west side of Manhattan. The Wershbas and some of their coworkers realized that Murrow’s office would be dismantled. “His name was still on the door,” she says. “We couldn’t let them throw it out.”
It was decided the Wershbas would take the door since they had a big garage in which to store it. For a brief time, the couple considered using it. “But it just wouldn’t fit in my house,” says Shirley. “So we started thinking that it would belong someplace where it would be cherished.”
The Wershbas had once traveled to Pullman with Diane Sawyer and several other well-known CBS journalists. They felt comfortable with campus and the work being done to preserve Murrow’s legacy. That’s why when Darby called, they decided they had a solution to a problem that had been lingering with them for more than 40 years. “I wasn’t sure what to think,” says Baldwin of their offer of the door. When she turned to her co-workers and asked if the school was interested, she was met with a resounding “Yes.”
The door was unearthed from the garage where it had been stored flat with a curtain over the top to keep it clean. Faculty and staff from the Murrow school arranged for a shipper to arrive at the Wershbas’ home, crate up the big black metal door, and take it away.
It finally arrived last spring during the Murrow symposium, and just as WSU’s Murrow School was about to be transformed into the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. Casey Murrow, Ed Murrow’s only child, was on hand to help unwrap it.
The Murrow Door is on display in the main hallway of the new
addition at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.