ATLANTA (AP) — Nick Charles, a former taxi driver who became CNN's first sports anchor, died Saturday after a two-year struggle with bladder cancer, the cable network reported.
He died peacefully at his New Mexico home, his wife Cory told the network. He was 64.
Nicholas Charles Nickeas grew up in Chicago, working late-night jobs in high school to help his family, according to CNN. He eventually went to college to study communications and drove a taxi to help pay his tuition.
He was still driving taxis in 1970 when he landed his first gig with WICS in Springfield, Ill. That's when he adopted the name Nick Charles at the urging of his news director, the network said.
Charles later left Springfield to work at local stations in Baltimore and Washington and then began at Atlanta-based CNN on the network's first day in 1980.
He made his name before a national audience teaming with Fred Hickman for almost 20 years on "Sports Tonight," a daily highlight show that battled with ESPN for viewers. Charles became such a popular TV personality that Topps put his face on a trading card, CNN reported.
"We just clicked from the very beginning," Hickman told CNN in an interview. "In television, you always have personality conflicts. Nick and I never had one. Nick and I have always had a tremendous relationship."
In an interview in March, he told the network his message was to "never give up on life."
"People won't remember who you are or what you said. It's really about: Are you going to be remembered as a good person?" he said.
"That's victory to me. That's success."