Jim Lehrer

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Jim Lehrer
Jim lehrer 2007.jpg
Lehrer at the 2007 Texas Book Festival
James Charles Lehrer

(1934-05-19) May 19, 1934 (age 85)
ResidenceWashington, D.C., U.S.
EducationVictoria College (Texas)
University of Missouri
OccupationJournalist, news anchor, author
Notable credit(s)
PBS NewsHour
The Dallas Morning News
The Dallas Times Herald
Spouse(s)Kate Lehrer (m. 1960)
Military career
Service/branch United States Marine Corps

James Charles Lehrer (/ˈlɛərər/; born May 19, 1934)[1] is an American journalist and novelist.

Lehrer is the former Executive Editor and a former News Anchor for the PBS NewsHour on PBS, and is known for his role as a Debate Moderator in U.S. Presidential Election campaigns. He is an author of numerous fiction and non-fiction books that draw upon his experience as a newsman, along with his interests in history and politics.[2]

Early years[edit]

Lehrer was born in Wichita, Kansas—the son of Lois Catherine (née Chapman), a bank clerk; and Harry Frederick Lehrer, a bus station manager.[3] He attended middle school in Beaumont, Texas, and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School (San Antonio, TX) where he was a sports editor for the Jefferson Declaration. He graduated with an A.A. from Victoria College in Texas, and a B.J. from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri in 1956.

After graduating from college, Lehrer joined the United States Marine Corps[4] and attributes his service and travels with helping him to look past himself and feel a connection to the world that he would not have otherwise experienced.[5]


In 1959, Lehrer began his career in journalism at The Dallas Morning News in Texas. Later, he worked as a Reporter for the Dallas Times-Herald, where he covered the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. There, he was a Political Columnist for several years, and in 1968 he became the City Editor.[6]

Lehrer began his television career at KERA-TV in Dallas, Texas, as the Executive Director of Public Affairs, an On-air Host, and Editor of a nightly news program. He moved to PBS in Washington, D.C., to become the Public Affairs Coordinator, a member of Journalism Advisory Board, and a Fellow at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). He worked as a Correspondent for the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT) where he met Robert MacNeil. In 1973, they covered the Senate Watergate hearings and the revelation of the Watergate Tapes broadcast, live on PBS. Lehrer covered the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment inquiry of President Richard Nixon.

In October 1975, Lehrer became the Washington Correspondent for the "Robert MacNeil Report" on Thirteen/WNET New York. Two months later on December 1, 1975, he was promoted to co-anchor, and the program was accordingly renamed "The MacNeil/Lehrer Report". In September 1983, Lehrer and MacNeil relaunched their show as The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, which was renamed The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, following McNeil's departure in 1995. The program was renamed the PBS NewsHour in 2009.[2]

In April 2008, Lehrer underwent a heart valve surgery, allowing Ray Suarez to anchor in his stead until Lehrer's return on June 26, 2008.[7]

On June 6, 2011, Lehrer stepped down as anchor of the PBS NewsHour, but continued to moderate the Friday news analysis segments and be involved with the show's production company, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions.[8]

Lehrer has received several awards and honors throughout his career in journalism, including several Emmys; the George Foster Peabody Broadcast Award; a William Allen White Foundation Award for Journalistic Merit; and the University of Missouri School of Journalism's Medal of Honor. In 2004, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Journalism degree by McDaniel College.[2][9]

Presidential debate moderator[edit]

Lehrer has been involved in several projects related to U.S. presidential debates, including the Debating Our Destiny documentaries in 2000 and 2008, that feature excerpts of exclusive interviews with many of the presidential and vice presidential candidates since 1976.[10] Nicknamed The Dean of Moderators by journalist Bernard Shaw, Lehrer has moderated twelve presidential debates, spanning from 1988 to 2012.[11] As of 2016, Lehrer serves of the board of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).[12]

Lehrer most recently moderated the first general election debate of the 2012 election. He originally had sworn off moderating any debates after 2008; however, the CPD persisted, and he accepted as he was interested in the new format.[13] The debate was held at the University of Denver and covered domestic policy issues. Lehrer's performance as a moderator, in which he frequently allowed the candidates to exceed the given time limits, received mixed reviews; while he received criticism for his lenient enforcement of time rules and open-ended questions, his approach also received praise for letting the candidates have some control in the debate on their own terms.[14][15]

Personal life[edit]

Lehrer is married to Kate Lehrer, who is also a novelist. They have three daughters and six grandchildren.[2] His father was a bus driver, who briefly operated a bus company. Lehrer is an avid bus enthusiast, a hobbyist, and a collector of bus memorabilia—including depot signs, driver caps, and antique toy buses.[16][17] As a college student in the 1950s, he worked as a Trailways Ticket Agent in Victoria, Texas. He is a supporter of the Pacific Bus Museum in Williams, California, and the Museum of Bus Transportation in Hershey, Pennsylvania.[2]

Lehrer is a prolific writer and has authored numerous novels, as well as having penned several plays, screenplays, and three personal memoirs. His book, Top Down, is a novel based on the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination.[18] His most recent play, Bell, was produced by the National Geographic Society as part of their 125th anniversary celebration.

Honors and awards[edit]


Lehrer signing copies of his book at the National Press Club Book Fair in 2011

Novels (One-Eyed Mack Series)

  • Lehrer, Jim (1988). Kick the Can. New York: Putnam. ISBN 0-399-13350-X.
  • Lehrer, Jim (1989). Crown Oklahoma. New York: Putnam. ISBN 0-399-13434-4.
  • Lehrer, Jim (1990). The Sooner Spy. New York: Putnam. ISBN 0-399-13536-7.
  • Lehrer, Jim (1991). Lost and Found. New York: Putnam. ISBN 0-399-13601-0.
  • Lehrer, Jim (1992). Short List. New York: Putnam. ISBN 0-399-13665-7.
  • Lehrer, Jim (1994). Fine Lines. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-517-16435-3.

Novels (Charlie Henderson Series)

Novels (Stand-alone)

  • The Will and Bart Show
  • Church Key Charlie Blue
  • Chili Queen
  • Bell


  1. ^ "Oxford English Dictionary Entry for Jim Lehrer". Oxford Dictionaries. December 1, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "About Us: Jim Lehrer, Executive Editor". The PBS NewsHour. 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
  3. ^ "Jim Lehrer Biography (1934–)". film reference. 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  4. ^ Jim Lehrer (November 10, 2006). "Jim Lehrer Reflects on Marines at Museum Dedication". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  5. ^ Jim Lehrer (June 8, 2008). "Commencement speech of Jim Lehrer". Harvard University. Retrieved September 28, 2008.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Jim Lehrer - American Journalist and Author". Britannica.com. Encyclopædia Britannica. August 30, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  7. ^ The Associated Press (April 25, 2008). "NewsHour Anchor Jim Lehrer Has Heart Surgery". The International Herald Tribune. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
  8. ^ Farhi, Paul (May 12, 2011). "Jim Lehrer to step down from daily broadcast at 'NewsHour'". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  9. ^ The Baltimore Sun - "McDaniel's Commencement is Saturday; Jim and Kate Lehrer to Get Honorary Degrees," May 16, 2004.
  10. ^ "Jim Lehrer Hosts Debating our Destiny". PBS.org. MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in association with the Commission on Presidential Debates and WETA. December 31, 2008. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  11. ^ Associated Press (September 29, 2004). "Jim Lehrer: 'The Dean of Moderators'". NBC News. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
  12. ^ Guthrie, Marisa (September 26, 2016). "Jim Lehrer Offers Advice to Debate Moderators: It's Not About You (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  13. ^ Stelter, Brian; Shear, Michael D. (October 4, 2012). "Criticism Greets List of Debate Moderators". The New York Times, USA. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  14. ^ Bauder, David (October 4, 2012). "Tough Reviews for Jim Lehrer as Debate Moderator". San Francisco Chronicle, California, USA. Hearst Communications Inc. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  15. ^ "Jim Lehrer's Debate Performance Criticized, Defended, and Analyzed". The Washington Post, USA. October 4, 2012. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  16. ^ Lehrer, Jim - "A Bus of My Own", New York: Putnam - 1992. ISBN 0-399-13765-3.
  17. ^ Hari Sreenivasan - "Jim Lehrer's 'Super' Office Tour", On the Road, PBS, April 16, 2010.[1]
  18. ^ Lehrer, Jim - "Top Down: A Novel of the Kennedy Assassination", New York: Random House, 2013. ISBN 978-1-4000-6916-3.
  19. ^ "Paul White Award". Radio Television Digital News Association. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  20. ^ Peabody Awards won by Jim Lehrer , accessed September 2014.
  21. ^ Arizona State University. "Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication". Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  22. ^ Simon, Brent (August 13, 2008). "Luke Wilson Wants to Direct... Again". Shared Darkness. Archived from the original on November 26, 2013. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  23. ^ Truitt, Brian (September 8, 2010). "Luke Wilson shoots for the top in 'Middle Men'". USA Today. Retrieved October 4, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • Art at Our Doorstep: San Antonio Writers and Artists featuring Jim Lehrer. Edited by Nan Cuba and Riley Robinson (Trinity University Press, 2008).

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Robert MacNeil
NewsHour/PBS NewsHour anchor
Succeeded by
Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff
Notes and references
1. Lehrer co-anchored with MacNeil from 1975 to 1995.