John Palmer Has Died

By Alissa Krinsky 

Longtime NBC News correspondent and anchor John Palmer has died at the age of 77 after a “short, sudden illness”, the network reported tonight.

Calling Palmer a “dear colleague and friend”, NBC Nightly News weekend anchor Lester Holt described a journalist “many of you welcomed into your living rooms for a good many years…’Been there, done that’ only begins to describe John’s career. There was no one better in the trenches, and as a colleague, no one more liked.”

A Tennessee native, Palmer long served as a foreign correspondent for NBC News before moving over to the White House beat in 1979.  He went on to cover five presidents.  In 1982 he joined the Today show, where for seven years he was news anchor alongside hosts Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumbel.

The veteran newsman left NBC News in 1990, rejoining the division four years later. In a 2008 interview, Palmer shared with TVNewser that it was Tim Russert who gave him that second chance.

Palmer met his wife Nancy at NBC News, and currently two of his daughters are division journalists.  One of them, Today producer Molly Palmer Cowan, married CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan last year. At the time of their engagement, a delighted Palmer told TVNewser that he and Nancy were “not losing a daughter, just adding another journalist to the family, and a fine one he is!”

Update: The AP is reporting the cause of death as pulmonary fibrosis.

Full statement and bio from NBC News, after the jump…


“We are deeply saddened to share the news that we have lost a valued friend and colleague. Long-time correspondent John Palmer passed away today after a brief illness.
“John was a brilliant, brave, and tireless journalist who guided viewers through many of the most significant events of the past half-century – from the early days of the civil rights movement through the tragedy of 9/11. He covered five presidents and traveled to every corner of the world, always showing the empathy and compassion that helped set him apart. His kindness is remembered by all of us, and it built lasting bonds throughout our news division.
“John held many positions over the course of his long career with NBC News, but his most treasured role was that of husband and father.  Our love and support are with Nancy, Molly and Lee, Carter, Hope, and the entire Palmer family.”
Biography:   Veteran journalist John Palmer was a former NBC News anchor and correspondent whose career with the network spanned the course of 40 years, first from 1962 to 1990, and again from 1994 until his retirement in 2002.
Palmer most recently served as a National Correspondent for NBC News based in Washington, D.C., covering the White House as well as other major national international developments from 1994-2002.
During his tenure with NBC News, Palmer held a variety of assignments, including News Anchor for “Today” from 1982-1989.  Prior to that, he served as NBC’s White House Correspondent during the Carter and Reagan administrations.
Palmer’s distinguished career included a number of “firsts.”  On the evening of April 25, 1980, broadcasting live from the north lawn of the White House, he delivered the first news reports of the aborted rescue attempt of American hostages in Iran.  For breaking that story and his subsequent reporting, Palmer’s colleagues in the White House press corps honored him with the Merriman Memorial Award for Excellence in Presidential news coverage.   He was the first broadcast journalist to receive that coveted award.  Palmer also anchored the first hours of NBC’s coverage of the Challenger Space Shuttle tragedy on January 28, 1986, as well as other NBC News Special Reports.
Preceding his White House assignment, Palmer was based in Paris from January 1976-September 1979.  Earlier, he had been posted to Beirut where he covered the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the Arab oil embargo, the war in Cyprus and the civil war in Angola.
In 1988, Palmer wrote and anchored the highly acclaimed one-hour NBC News documentary, “The Pension Cookie Jar.”
During the 1990 television season, Palmer anchored the nationally syndicated news program “Instant Recall” in which he interviewed prominent newsmakers of the last few decades, including Presidents Carter, Ford and Reagan; Egyptian President Anwar Sadat; Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; Dean Rusk; Jonas Salk; Alan Shephard; and Chuck Yeager.
Prior to rejoining NBC News in January 1995, Palmer served as a television anchor and correspondent for Monitor Radio and Television from 1992-1994.
Over the years, Palmer’s work was recognized with a number of prestigious awards, including the Overseas Press Club Award and a National Emmy Award for his reporting on the African famine; a National Headliners Award for coverage of the fighting in Lebanon; and an Emmy for his reporting on America’s space program.  In January 1990, he received the “Distinguished Service in Broadcasting Award” presented by College of Journalism at the University of Georgia.  In addition, the National Father’s Day Committee named Palmer in 1987.
A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, Palmer graduated from Northwestern University and earned his Master’s Degree from Columbia University.  He was also the recipient of several honorary Doctorate degrees.
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