Tom Jarriel joined ABCNEWS’ in 1965 as the first correspondent at the newly opened Atlanta, GA, bureau. After providing extensive coverage of the civil rights movement and the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Jarriel went on to hold several prestigious positions at ABCNEWS including White House correspondent, senior regional correspondent for World News Tonight and anchor of ABCNEWS’ The Weekend Report. Jarriel joined 20/20 as a correspondent in June 1979.
Jarriel first received national distinction for his coverage of the civil rights movement in the South. He was the only network news correspondent covering the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis on the night of his assassination.
Jarriel is the recipient of 12 Emmy Awards, including one for a 1991 “20/20” segment, “Why Are They Here?,” a piece on the mentally ill who are jailed as inmates after committing crimes, instead of being placed in hospitals for treatment. He has also reported for a number of award-winning ABCNEWS “Closeup” documentaries, including “Death in a Southwest Prison,” which won a special Jury Award and a second place in the Unity Awards; and “The Uranium Factor,” which won an Ohio State Award and a Gold Medal in Investigative Reporters and Editors Annual Awards Competition. Jarriel is the recipient of a National Headliner Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting by a Network for his piece on the aftermath of “Operation Babylift.”
Mr. Jarriel reported on a wide range of topics for 20/20, including a much-praised report on female members of the armed forces who allege they were raped and sexually abused while serving their country. This report offered an emotional and often disturbing glimpse at the experiences of women, including their allegations that the response from military officials was inadequate. At a time of intense news coverage of the new incidents of sexual abuse, the report included an exclusive interview with a young female soldier who says that her sergeant at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds forced her to have sex with him.
Jarriel also reported on a California serial killer who some say has manipulated the justice system during one of the longest and most expensive cases of its kind in American history. His report on “human guinea pigs” examined the price some medical volunteers have paid for participating in a research project which offered hope for people suffering from spinal cord injuries; and he also told the story of a Michigan mother who slapped her rebellious teenage daughter, never dreaming that she might be prosecuted for assault.
Jarriel also investigated allegations that military intelligence obtained by Saddam Hussein for the design of long-range weapons used against American soldiers may have originated from sources at a U.S. Army research laboratory.
In December of 1988, Jarriel anchored an ABCNEWS Special, “The Business of Defense: Flaws in the Shield,” as part of the critically acclaimed “Burning Questions” series. The hour-long broadcast looked at the system of Pentagon procurement and how that system has been corrupted. The hour focused on the three different arms of the procurement system and the problems with each: The government (Pentagon and Congress), the military contractors who build the weapons, and the consultants who act as middlemen between the government and industry. Also in 1988, Jarriel anchored an ABCNEWS Special, “Life After Death Row.” This hour-long program concentrated on the 102 men and women who were sentenced to death row in 1972 in California and who, due to a change in the law, had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment, thereby making them eligible for parole.
From 1979 to 1990, Jarriel served as anchor for ABCNEWS’ The Weekend Report and ABC NewsBrief on Sunday evenings.
Jarriel received various honors for his reports on the children of Romania, including the EDI Award from the National Easter Seal Society; the Madeline Dane Ross Award from the Overseas Press Club, a citation from the Robert F. Kennedy Awards, a Christopher Award, and an award from the Columbus International Film Festival. He is also the recipient of an American Bar Association Certificate of Merit Award, a Sigma Chi Delta Award, the Clarion Award from Women in Communications Inc., the Gold Award from the National Mental Health Association Media Awards and a National Headliner Award. Jarriel received two 1994 Genesis Awards for his report, “Where Does Your Dog Come From?,” an investigation into the practices of the American Kennel Club registry of dogs; and two 1994 CINE Golden Eagle Awards—one for his report, “Assault on the Mail,” a report on how the mail, and those who deliver it, are under siege by criminals both inside and outside the post office; and the other for “The Last Man Out,” in which he returned to Vietnam with former Marine, POW and convicted enemy collaborator Robert Garwood.
He also received the 1993 Aviation/Space Writers Association Award of Excellence for an investigative segment involving the crash of USAir flight 405 at LaGuardia Airport in March 1992; the Joan Barone Award for his coverage of an Amtrak accident in Chase, Maryland; a Headliner Award for Best TV Investigative Report for “The Business of Defense: Flaws in the Shield”; the Teddy Award in 1987 for his report, “On the Wings of Voyager”; and the CINE Golden Eagle Award and the George Washington Honor Medal for his hour-long 1985 report, “Try to Make a Miracle.”
Jarriel, a veteran Washington correspondent for ABCNEWS, has been actively involved in covering national politics since arriving in Washington in 1968. He served as ABCNEWS White House correspondent from 1969 until the inauguration of Jimmy Carter. He was part of the ABCNEWS team that covered the re-election of President Nixon and Nixon’s resignation from the White House. He also traveled around the world covering Nixon on his historic trip to China, and later returned there with President Ford. Jarriel also has traveled on several occasions to report on summit meetings in Moscow and was with President Ford when he met with Russian leaders in Vladivostok.
In 1978 Jarriel was named senior regional correspondent for ABCNEWS’ World News Tonight.
Born in LaGrange, Georgia, Jarriel is a graduate of the University of Houston. He began his journalism career at KPRC in Houston, where he worked his way up from copy boy to news editor. He retired in 2002, the same year he received his last Emmy award for excellence in broadcast journalist. In 2004, he was inducted into the National Academy of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.
(biography courtesy ABCNEWS)