News anchor and moderator Jim Lehrer died January 23, 2020 in his Washington, DC home at the age of 85. PBS, where Lehrer has had his long running news program, said that Lehrer died peacefully in his sleep but no cause of death was given.

Lehrer has moderated eleven presidential debates during his career, seven of them as the solo moderator. A stay out of the way type moderator, Leher noted that it wasn’t about him; but rather, what the debaters had to say.

Lehrer saw his job as a public service saying, “I have an old-fashioned view that news is not a commodity. News is information that’s required in a democratic society, and Thomas Jefferson said a democracy is dependent on an informed citizenry. That sounds corny, but I don’t care whether it sounds corny or not. It’s the truth.”

Jim Lehrer was the Washington correspondent for the “Robert MacNeil Report” in 1975. Later the duo expanded their 30 minute program to a full hour of news – the first in the nation – and renamed the program the “MacNeil-Lehrer Report” and then changed to the “MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour”. Today the program is known as the PBS Newshour.

In 1995 Robert MacNeil left and the show was again renamed, this time “MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour”.

Away from the spotlights and microphone, Jim Lehrer was a novelist and sometime playwright who collected bus memorabilia including a 1946 Fixible Clipper bus.

Preferring the low key profile of PBS over other networks, Lehrer has earned two Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award. His accomplishments include being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and was presented with the National Humanities Medal. He played himself in the film “Zoolander 2”.

James Charles Lehrer was born on May 19, 1934 in Wichita, Kansas to a family that owned a bus company. After his college graduation from the University of Missouri in 1956, Lehrer spent three years in the U.S. Marines. He later stated that all young people should serve in the military. After the service, he began his new career in newsprint before moving to television.

Lehrer is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years Kate; daughters Jamie, Lucy, and Amanda; and six grandchildren.


Feature photo credit: By Miller Center – RS3J3567, CC BY 2.0,