Hailing from the Yukon Territories, did anyone there realize that this young lad would become the journalist, media-personality and historian credited with making Canadian history cool? Perhaps it was more surprising that as a young reporter starting out in 1941, Pierre Berton was once sacked from his job for reading the comics in the newsroom. However, he also landed the newspaper's big scoop that day, so his boss had to take him back.
Berton's early years as a reporter toughened the young Whitehorse native, ultimately spurring him on to become one of Canada's most important and best-loved journalists, broadcasters, and historians. He worked for such prominent Canadian media houses as The Vancouver Sun, MacLean's, The Toronto Star and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He once had his own television program, "The Pierre Berton Show", which ran from 1962-1973.
The author of some 40 books, his first critically acclaimed release was "Klondike" (1958.) Berton wrote this haunting narrative about the Klondike gold rush of 1898, a story he was very familiar with given that his father had been a gold seeker himself. "Klondike" established Berton's credentials as a historian, one who could simply and easily tell a great Canadian tale.
Berton's books have always been clearly focused on Canadian stories, telling of our great moments yet not shying away from admitting our darker side. He has won every major national award there is for his efforts, including The Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour ("Just Add Water and Stir ," 1960), the Governor General's Awards for three of his books (The Last Spike, 1972; Klondike, 1958; The Mysterious North, 1956,) a Nellie Award (1978) and the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for non-fiction in 1981.
Berton says, "Fame may be fleeting, but Canada's Walk of Fame should ensure that it lasts much longer."
Berton died at Sunnybrook hospital in Toronto, reportedly of heart failure, at the age of 84 on November 30, 2004
Established in 1994, the Pierre Berton Award is presented annually by Canada's National History Society for distinguished achievement in presenting Canadian history in an informative and engaging manner. Berton was the first recipient and agreed to lend his name to future awards.