Jim Lehrer, Longtime PBS Anchorman, Dead at 85

Longtime PBS host Jim Lehrer has died at the age of 85. According to the network, he died "peacefully in his sleep while at home." The 30-year on-air veteran retired from his job in 2011.

PBS shared the news via social media. "It is with great sadness that we share the news that co-founder and anchor of @NewsHour Jim Lehrer has passed away," the news organization tweeted.

While the cause of death has not been released, Lehrer did suffer a heart attack in 1983; more recently he had heart valve surgery in 2008.

"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."

The President of PBS, Paula Kerger, also added some kind words after hearing the news saying, "On behalf of all of us at PBS, we are deeply saddened to learn of Jim Lehrer's passing. From co-creating the groundbreaking MacNeil/Lehrer Report to skillfully moderating many presidential debates, Jim exemplified excellence in journalism throughout his extraordinary career," she said. "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."

The respected talent was born in 1934 in Wichita, Kansas. He went to Victoria College in Texas before later studying journalism at the University of Missouri. He also served three years as an infantry officer in the 1950s. In his years of journalism, he's interviewed several leading figures including Margaret Thatcher, Yasser Arafat, South Korean President Kim Daejung and Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, along with Jordan's King Abdullah and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He also moderated 12 presidential debates making him the only person in U.S. history to moderate so many debates.

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President and CEO of WETA, Sharon Percy Rockefeller, said, "We at WETA are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our longtime friend and colleague Jim Lehrer, one of America's most distinguished journalists and a true champion of excellence in reporting. Jim set the gold standard for broadcast journalism in our nation and devoted his life to a vital public service — keeping Americans informed and thereby strengthening our civil society. Through his extraordinary insight, integrity, balance and discipline, Jim earned the trust of the American people, and his important legacy lives on at PBS NewsHour."

Photo credit: Walter McBride / Getty