ABC's Peter Jennings Dies at 67
"Peter has been our colleague, our friend and our leader in so many ways. None of us will be the same without him," ABC News President David Westin said late Sunday.
Jennings, who had been a network news star for four decades, was 67.
The debonair broadcaster who became a familiar presence in American households had come to his vocation naturally. His father, Charles Jennings, was the first person to anchor a nightly national news program in Canada and later became head of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s news division. Peter kept a photo of his dad in his New York office at ABC.
Peter's own first broadcast job was on a Saturday morning radio show in Ottawa. He was 9. And while the boy never completed high school or college, he kicked off a career as a news reporter at a radio station in Brockton, Ontario, and soon landed an anchor position on Canadian Television.
Sent south to cover the 1964 Democratic national convention, the handsome 26-year-old correspondent was spotted by ABC's news president. Offered a reporting job, Peter left Canada for New York – and, with third-ranked ABC seeking out younger viewers, was selected to anchor the evening news and debuted on Feb. 1, 1965.
Later in Jennings's career, he was among "The Big Three" news anchors, a job he shared with his competitors, Tom Brokaw of NBC and Dan Rather of CBS, both of whom have retired from the evening news.
Calling Jennings a man "born to be an anchor," Brokaw said Monday: "Peter, of the three of us, was our prince. He seemed so timeless. He had such elan and style."
Jennings's April 5 on-air announcement that he would begin treatment for lung cancer was jarring to both colleagues and viewers. "I will continue to do the broadcast," he said, his voice husky, in a taped message that night. "On good days, my voice will not always be like this."
But although Jennings – who until the cancer had never taken a sick day off from work – occasionally came to the office between chemotherapy treatments, he never again appeared on the air. (Charles Gibson has been occupying his chair for the most part, though throughout Jennings’s absence ABC has staunchly declined to suggest that its star would not be returning. A successor has not been named.)
According to Westin: "(Peter) 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."
Thrice divorced, Jennings is survived by his fourth wife, former ABC TV producer Kayce Freed, and his two children, Elizabeth, 25, and Christopher, 23. Their mother was Jennings’s third wife, author Kati Marton, to whom he was married from 1979-93.
As of Monday morning outside the ABC studios on Manhattan’s West Side, where Jennings had broadcast the news (and not far from his Central Park West apartment), fans have begun leaving floral tributes to him.
On Newsstands Now
- Kim's Delivery Room Drama!
- Katie: A Year After Split
- Princess Kate: Palace's Baby Plan Revealed
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine