Murrow was born Egbert Roscoe Murrow near Greensboro, in Guilford County, North Carolina, the son of Roscoe C. Murrow and Ethel F. (née Lamb) Murrow. His parents were Quakers. He was the youngest of three brothers and was a "mixture of English, Scots, Irish and German" descent. His home was a log cabin without electricity or plumbing, on a farm bringing in only a few hundred dollars a year from corn and hay.
When Murrow was six his family moved to Blanchard, Washington, 30 miles from the Canadian border, where they began homesteading. He attended high school in nearby Edison, becoming president of the student body in his senior year and excelling on the debating team. He was on the Skagit County championship basketball team. By that time, the teenage Murrow was going by the nickname "Ed". During his second year of college Murrow changed his name from Egbert to Edward.