President Bush: ‘Americans Relied Upon Peter Jennings’

Aug 8, 2005  •  Post A Comment

President Bush joined the long list of those paying tribute Monday morning to “ABC World News Tonight’s” elegant, urbane and measured anchor Peter Jennings, who died Sunday at home 4½ months after disclosing he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Mr. Jennings had just turned 67 Aug. 3, when co-workers hired a plane to fly a banner wishing him a happy birthday over his home in the Hamptons.

An ABC spokeswoman said Monday that funeral services for Mr. Jennings will be private, and a memorial will not be scheduled before Labor Day.

“Peter Jennings had a long and distinguished career as a news journalist. He covered many important events, events that helped define the world as we know it today,” President Bush said. “A lot of Americans relied upon Peter Jennings for their news. He became a part of the life of a lot of our fellow citizens, and he will be missed. May God bless his soul.”

The news that many viewers, colleagues and competitors had hoped would not come for a long time led all of the morning news programs and dominated ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Monday’s “Nightline” will mark the saddest in a series of events that bring to an end the era of the larger-than-life voice-of-God TV news anchors. Tom Brokaw, who retired last November after 21 years as sole anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” and Dan Rather, who ended his 24 years on the anchor desk of “CBS Evening News” in March to become a full-time correspondent again, will talk from Montana and Beirut, Lebanon, respectively, about Mr. Jennings and his storied career.

The program will be anchored by Ted Koppel, the rare ABC News journalist who predated Mr. Jennings — by a year — at the network, which Mr. Jennings joined on Aug. 3, 1964.

Mr. Jennings, who anchored “World News Tonight” for more than 20 years, announced in April that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

In announcing Mr. Jennings’ death to his colleagues, ABC News President David Westin wrote: “For four decades, Peter has been our colleague, our friend, and our leader in so many ways. None of us will be the same without him.

“As you all know, Peter learned only this spring that the health problem he’d been struggling with was lung cancer. With [Mr. Jennings’ wife] Kayce [Freed], he moved straight into an aggressive chemotherapy treatment. He knew that it was an uphill struggle. But he faced it with realism, courage and a firm hope that he would be one of the fortunate ones. In the end, he was not.”

“We will have many opportunities in the coming hours and days to remember Peter for all that he meant to us all. It cannot be overstated or captured in words alone. But for the moment, the finest tribute we can give is to continue to do the work he loved so much and inspired us to do.”

Throughout his career, Mr. Jennings reported from all 50 states and locations around the globe. In 1983 Mr. Jennings was named anchor and senior editor of “World News Tonight,” according to ABCNews.com.

He received many awards for news reporting, including 16 Emmys, two George Foster Peabody Awards, several Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards and several Overseas Press Club Awards.

Mr. Jennings was the author, with Todd Brewster, of the New York Times best seller “The Century.” He and Mr. Brewster also published “In Search of America,” a companion book for the six-part ABC News series.

Mr. Jennings is survived by his wife, Kayce Freed, his two children, Elizabeth, 25, and Christopher, 23, and his sister, Sarah Jennings.

Melissa Grego contributed to this report.