John Palmer, longtime NBC News correspondent and former news anchor of the "Today" show during one of its most successful periods, died Saturday
at George Washington University Hospital in Washington after a brief illness.
The New York Daily News reported that Palmer died from pulmonary fibrosis, according to this wife, Nancy, who he met while working at NBC
. Palmer’s career spanned four decades and several countries, working for NBC from 1962 to 1990, and returning to the network from 1994 until 2002.
Palmer was probably best known for breaking the story of the failed 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages in Tehran during the Iranian hostage crisis. He won the Merriman Smith Memorial Award for excellence in presidential news coverage for his coverage of that story, according to The Associated Press
. Palmer was the first broadcast journalist to receive the award.
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"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," NBC News said in a statement. "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."
Palmer's interviews included Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, medical researcher Jonas Salk and Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, according to CNN
"John Palmer brought to the White House beat his foreign policy experience and a steady reassuring voice, in good times and in bad," NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell told the AP.
Journalism colleagues praised Palmer for his integrity, hard work and determination in the field throughout his career.
Major Garrett, chief White House correspondent for CBS News, called Palmer, "a brilliant, competitive, ethical and gentle man."
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Deborah Norville, who replaced Palmer on "Today," said he was "kind, welcoming (and) helpful to me years ago."
CBS News' Mark Knoller told CNN that Palmer was a "great gentleman and a great reporter."
Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of USA Today, told the AP that he was "one of the kindest/most joyful reporters on the beat."
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