Tony Potter, documentary filmmaker from Greenwich, dies at 84
GREENWICH — Tony Potter, a documentary filmmaker and producer for NBC News whose inquisitive pursuit of current events and history brought him numerous awards during a long career, is being mourned by family and friends.
Potter, a longtime Greenwich resident, died Jan. 17 at the age of 84.
At NBC, Potter made documentaries with the network’s “White Paper” series on a wide variety of subjects. He made “Vietnam - Lessons of a Lost War,” “The Real Star Wars - Defense in Space,” “Journey to the Heart of China,” “The Man Who Shot the Pope: A Study in Terrorism,” “The Cocaine Trail,” “We’re Moving Up - The Hispanic Migration,” and “America - Black and White.”
In 1985, Potter left NBC News as executive producer and began his own documentary production company, Potter Productions International. His company produced award-winning programming, inclucding a 26-part series, “Spies,” as well as “The Homefront: America Goes to War,” “From the Files of Interpol: The World’s Most Wanted,” and “100 Years of Terror: The Roots of 20th Century Terrorism.”
Anthony Ross Potter was born in Philadelphia on June 13, 1934, to Herbert Ross Potter, an advertising executive, and Elizabeth Stockwell (Leopold) Potter. He grew up in Darien and graduated from Phillips Academy and Princeton University.
“I always wanted to be a writer,” he recalled in an interview in 2011. “At Princeton I majored in lyric poetry. My father told me, ‘You’ll never make money doing that.’”
Upon graduating from Princeton, he served in the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant. Potter worked for a time for a wire-service agency and a newspaper in California before bringing his story-telling skills to television. He garnered three Emmy Awards, as well as three George Foster Peabody Awards, among numerous other honors during his career.
He was related to the poet Emily Dickinson and wrote a book about her. “Like Emily Dickinson, I was concerned about and scrutinized current events. Like my famous relative, when I write, it is to observe the state of people’s lives, the state of the world, and always, nature,” he said.
According to his family, he was an adventurer as well as a scholar.
“He was humble and soft-spoken, having lived an exhilarating life punctuated by notable experiences such as running with the bulls in Pamplona, climbing the Matterhorn, traveling on an old freight ship from Mexico to New York, surviving a gunshot accident while wild boar hunting in Turkey, being swarmed by ferocious killer bees in Brazil, receiving death threats from PLO terrorists, as well as drug cartels in South America,” his family wrote in a tribute.
Potter was a longtime member of the Round Hill Club in Greenwich.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Phyllis (Rooney) Potter; two daughters, Whitney Potter of New York City and Ashley Potter of Greenwich; and two grandchildren.
Memorial services are pending.