William A. Leonard, 78, who capped his career as CBS News president after influencing network media stars from Edward R. Murrow to Dan Rather and helping develop such shows as "60 Minutes," died of a stroke yesterday at Laurel Regional Hospital, the TV network reported. Mr. Leonard, who lived in Washington, was responsible for the selection of Mr. Rather to succeed Walter Cronkite as anchorman of "CBS Evening News." Earlier, he had been a key figure in the creation of "60 Minutes," as well as of techniques for rapidly predicting the outcome of political races. Mr. Leonard joined CBS in 1945, after wartime Navy service, to work at the network's flagship radio station in New York City. Mr. Leonard's penetrating interview style led him to be chosen by CBS News to be a floor reporter at the 1952, 1956 and 1960 political conventions. In 1959, he became a full-time CBS News correspondent in the group that would inaugurate the CBS Reports documentary series. He retired in June 1982, but continued to consult and contribute ideas to CBS News.
THE BALTIMORE SUN