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Henry Morgenthau III, producer who helped shape public television, dies at 101

Henry Morgenthau III, a TV producer and documentarian who helped shape public television in its early days and provided a forum for the nation’s civil rights conversation in the 1960s, died July 11 at a retirement community in Washington. He was 101.

The cause was complications from aortic stenosis, his daughter Sarah Morgenthau said.

A scion of a prominent German-Jewish family, Mr. Morgenthau was a son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s treasury secretary, a grandson of the U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire under President Woodrow Wilson, the older brother of former Manhattan district attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, and a cousin of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara W. Tuchman.

He grew up moving comfortably among Washington and New York political and literary society, although he said his Jewish heritage made him often feel like an outsider at times. That contradiction would inform his professional life as a teller of stories, on screen and in print.

His years as a producer at WGBH in Boston, from 1955 to 1977, coincided with the birth of public television. Mr. Morgenthau was inspired by “the whole concept of using television to educate and also tell stories of marginalized people in society,” his son Kramer Morgenthau said.

He was among the first American TV producers to bring a crew into apartheid South Africa. He also produced “Prospects of Mankind,” a weekly show hosted by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt featuring roundtable discussions of foreign and domestic affairs with political, academic and media experts.

Henry Morgenthau III in a car with his father, Henry Morgenthau Jr., and Franklin D. Roosevelt during his New York gubernatorial campaign circa 1928. (Morgenthau estate)

As executive producer at WGBH, one of the country’s premier public television outlets, his shows

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