Jim Lehrer, longtime news anchor for PBS, passed away in his sleep on Thursday at the age of 85.
Lehrer was born on May 19, 1934 in Wichita, Kansas, to a bank clerk and a bus station manager. He graduated from Victoria College in Texas and then studied journalism at the University of Missouri. Lehrer served three years as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Lehrer then started his journalism career as a newspaper reporter. He went from covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas to broadcasting reports with Robert MacNeil on the Watergate hearings, which led to the launch of their joint nightly news report entitled “The MacNeil-Lehrer Report.”
Lehrer co-founded and anchored PBS’ nightly newscast from 1975 thru 2011. Stated in the obituary published on PBS.org: “As an anchor of several iterations of the NewsHour, Jim reported the news with a clear sense of purpose and integrity, even as the world of media changed around him.”
From 1988 to 2012, Lehrer moderated 12 presidential debates in his career— the most for a journalist in U.S. history. In both 1996 and 2000, he moderated all of the presidential debates.
Lehrer also authored 20 novels, and was the recipient of countless journalism awards. In 1999, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton, and inducted into the Television Hall of Fame alongside MacNeil.
“I’m heartbroken at the loss of someone who was central to my professional life, a mentor to me and someone whose friendship I’ve cherished for decades,” Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour, said. “I’ve looked up to him as the standard for fair, probing and thoughtful journalism and I know countless others who feel the same way.”
Lehrer is survived by his wife, Kate; three daughters, Jamie, Lucy and Amanda; and six grandchildren.