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Longtime PBS NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer dies at 85

For 36 years, Jim Lehrer served as the anchor of PBS NewsHour.
Credit: AP
Moderator Jim Lehrer addresses the audience before the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Legendary journalist Jim Lehrer, who was the co-founder and longtime anchor of PBS NewsHour, has died. 

PBS announced that Lehrer died Thursday morning peacefully in his sleep at his home. He was 85. 

Lehrer served as the NewsHour anchor for 36 years before retiring in 2011. He had moderated 12 presidential debates, more than anyone else in U.S. history, including all of the ones in 1996 and 2000. 

Lehrer and Robert MacNeil founded PBS NewsHour from their 1973 coverage of the Senate Watergate Hearings. 

Current PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff went on the air before the network's coverage of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial on Thursday to let viewers know about Lehrer's passing. 

"We are heartbroken here at the NewsHour. Jim's legacy of journalism is with us every day," Woodruff said. "This program actually got its start when Jim and Robin covered the Watergate Hearings gavel-to-gavel in this very studio. We know that Jim would want us to honor him by continuing to do our work in bringing you this special coverage of this impeachment trial." 

"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,” Woodruff said in a statement.

PBS President Paula Kerger added that "Jim exemplified excellence in journalism throughout his extraordinary career." 

"A true giant in news and public affairs, he leaves behind an incredible legacy that serves as an inspiration to us all. He will be missed,” Kerger said.  

Before his long NewsHour career, Lehrer reported in Dallas for public television station KERA, the National Public Affairs Center for Television, the Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Times-Herald. He attended Victoria College in Texas and later studied journalism at the University of Missouri. 

Lehrer also served three years as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. 

He is survived by his wife Kate; three daughters Jamie, Lucy, and Amanda; and six grandchildren.

Credit: AP
Moderator Jim Lehrer addresses the audience before the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)