June 25, 2011 2:38 p.m. EDT
Nick Charles, who started off as a taxi driver and later became the first sports
anchor at CNN, died Saturday after battling bladder cancer since 2009. He was
Charles died peacefully, looking out at the spectacular land that drew him to
Santa Fe, New Mexico, his wife, Cory, said.
Charles began at CNN on the network’s first day, June 1, 1980, and covered
nearly every sporting event over the years.
He was paired with Fred Hickman for most of the next two decades on “Sports
Tonight,” a show that beat ESPN in ratings when the upstarts were battling for
viewers. To this day, he and Hickman remain one of the longest-lasting anchor
duos in television.
Topps, the trading-card company, put Charles’ million-dollar smile on a
bubble gum card, a rarity for a television personality. People magazine once
dubbed him one of the most handsome men in America.
“Nick was your friend from the moment you met him — and he stayed your
friend forever,” said Rick Davis, one of Charles’ producers at CNN in the 1980s.
“All of us who had the very good fortune to have been his friend have so much to
remember about how he touched our lives in his own special way,” said Davis, who
is CNN’s executive vice president of News Standards and Practices.
At his home in Santa Fe recently, Charles pointed to his signature mop of
curly black hair as he scrolled through photographs of his on-air days. “Look at
that thing,” he said with a laugh. “It’s my Billy Ray Cyrus mullet.”
While the world knew Charles for his sportscaster days, it was his battle
with cancer that inspired tens of thousands of people. In a recent CNN.com
article, he talked openly about the dying process and preparing his family for
when he was gone. He made birthday video diaries for his 5-year-old daughter,
Giovanna, in the years to come.
“This is a gift from God where I need to build these memories for her, so
that I’m not a blur,” he said. “I feel that when I go, that I’m going to prepare
a place for my daughter and my wife. I’m going to be in their heart and soul. I
tell them that every day.”
His message, he said, is to “never give up on life.”
“It’s an imperfect world, but, boy, it’s still beautiful.”
“What is life?” he said. “It’s 20 percent what happens to you and 80 percent
how you react to it.”
“Find that little kernel every day that brings you pleasure and joy — and
fasten onto that. That’s what’s going to make life worth living. Always look for
“When you’re contemplating your mortality and your life,” he said, “those are
the things I reflect on.”
The son of a taxi driver who was mostly absent from his life, Nicholas
Charles Nickeas grew up poor in inner-city Chicago. In grade school, during the
frigid winters when his dad didn’t pay the heat bills, Charles would curl up in
bed with his mother and brother to stay warm.
He struggled in high school. He had no mentors. He was too busy working
late-night jobs at produce docks in desolate Chicago neighborhoods. Once, his
boss pointed to mounds of rat feces, threw lye all over the floor and handed the
17-year-old Charles a pair of gloves, rubber boots and a hoe.
He scrubbed away, but thought to himself: “I’ll never be trapped again in
life. Never. Never.”
“That was a watershed, life-changing moment for me. It really drove me to the
point where I had focus in my life.”
He eventually went to Columbia College Chicago, where he studied
communications and journalism.
He drove a taxi to help pay for college. Even in the driver’s seat, he was
practicing for his broadcast career.
“I wasn’t nosey, but just curious about people’s life. I’d ask, ‘How’d you
get to this country? What was the spark that motivated you in life?’ … I don’t
know what it was, but people would open up.”
Charles was still driving taxis in the fall of 1970 when he auditioned for
his first television job, at WICS in Springfield, Illinois.
Two days later, he got the job. He took a pay cut to enter the television
business: $130 a week as a sports anchor, compared with $200 driving a taxi.
He was told by his news director that his Greek name was too ethnic and to
change it to something more “vanilla.”
“Nick Nickeas, sounds like you got a stutter, too,” the news director
At the age of 24, Nick Charles was born. He covered sports for WICS, before
the job rolled into just about anything, from farm reports to fluff. A wolf once
urinated on his leg: “The mother wolf was a little mad. We got a little too
close to her cubs.”
From Springfield, he worked at local stations in Baltimore and Washington
before joining CNN.
And it’s at CNN where he shined.
In his prime, he and Hickman had chemistry, charisma and dynamism — a duo of
boundless energy. The two were revolutionary for their time, a white and black
man sitting side-by-side live every night in studios from the once-segregated
“We just clicked from the very beginning,” Hickman said in an interview
before Charles’ death. “In television, you always have personality conflicts.
Nick and I never had one. Nick and I have always had a tremendous
Hickman’s favorite memory with his long-time friend came in the 1980s when
they arrived in Los Angeles for the Cable Ace Awards. Stretch limousines and
other luxurious cars were parked everywhere. “We pulled up in a red Ford Tempo,”
Hickman said with a laugh.
His favorite line ever uttered by Charles came after Mike Tyson demolished an
opponent: “Tyson tore his meat house down.”
“I still don’t know what it means,” Hickman said, “but I love it.”
Charles covered everything from the Olympics to the Super Bowl to the
Kentucky Derby. But boxing was his passion.
He covered some of the most classic boxing matches — when Tyson bit Evander
Holyfield’s ear, when Roberto Duran quit and told Sugar Ray Leonard, “No
Seeing an undefeated Tyson get knocked out by Buster Douglas in Tokyo in 1990
“That night was magical,” Charles said. “It speaks to the uncertainty, that
anybody’s cloak of invincibility can be ripped away.”
Charles would cry when he talked about the strength of boxers, because when
he looked at the ring, he saw young men like him from the inner city who had to
rely on themselves to reach success.
“You have to walk down that alley way to the ring,” he said. “You’re going to
get hit. You have to take pain to get it. You have to fight through fear.”
“There’s just such an empathy I have for these guys. They want it so
Tyson on Saturday sent a message on Twitter: “Mourning the loss of a true
warrior. My friend & brother, Nick Charles.”
In an interview in March, Charles had said he hoped to make it to one more
Easter, to see his dream home completed in May, to see his daughter play the
piano, to reach his 65th birthday on June 30. He made three of those four
“If I don’t make it,” he said, “there’s no need for any pity parties.”
“People won’t remember who you are or what you said,” he said. “It’s really
about: Are you going to be remembered as a good person?”
“That’s victory to me. That’s success.”
Charles is survived by his wife, Cory, of 13 years and their daughter,
Giovanna. He has three children from two previous marriages: Jason, 39; Melissa,
36; and Katie, 24.
“His passing is a loss to CNN, to the sports world and to the fans and
friends everywhere who were with him to the end of his extraordinary life,” said
Jim Walton, Charles’ field producer in his early days and current president of
Nick Charles and his family formed the “Embrace Life” project
to help stop child trafficking and abuse, increase access to education and allow
children to embrace life. Working with the humanitarian organization World
Vision and the TEACH NOW: Preventing Child Labor in the Philippines project, the
family welcomes support here: www.worldvision.org/EmbraceLife.
Nicholas Charles Nickeas was born on June 30th, 1946 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Charles
Each letter of the first name rules 9 years of life. Ages 0 to 27 are ruled by the sum of the month of birth and the first three letters of the name.
June 30th, 1946 Nicholas Charles Nickeas
6 (June) + 14 (N is the 14th letter of the alphabet) + 9 (i is the 9th letter of the alphabet) + 3 (c is the 3rd letter of the alphabet) = 32
So from ages zero to twenty-seven he had the numbers 26 (sum of the first three letters of the name) and 32 (6+26=32) going on.
26 = Reporter. Broadcaster. Anchorman. Television. The news. The media. Communication. Journalism. Handsome. Hair. Charisma. Personality. Message.
32 = Boxing.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
5932 3819351 49
his path of destiny / how he learned what he was here to learn = Smile. Smiling. Happy.
find out your own numerology at: