Peter Jennings dies of lung cancer
ABC News anchor Peter Jennings dies of cancer
By Cal Mankowski
Peter Jennings, prime-time anchorman for ABC News for more than two decades, has died of lung cancer at his home, the network said. He was 67.
The Canadian-born Jennings, host of ABC's "World News Tonight" since 1983, died on Sunday, five months after he announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.
"Peter died with his family around him, without pain and in peace. He knew he'd lived a good life," his family said in a statement.
Jennings was the last of a generation of long-serving lead anchors for major U.S. broadcasters.
"He was a superb writer," ABC colleague Barbara Walters said in a special broadcast on ABC. She also recalled that "no one could ad-lib like Peter."
Jennings had a 41-year career with ABC, having joined the network in 1964. He soon went head-to-head with the toughest competition in the business, anchoring the network's prime-time news from 1965 to 1967 at a time when Walter Cronkite on CBS and the team of David Brinkley and Chet Huntley on NBC were dominant.
Jennings established the first American television news bureau in the Arab world in 1968 when he served as ABC News' bureau chief for Beirut, a position he held for seven years.
In 1972, he had a major role in ABC's coverage of the Summer Olympics in Munich, when Israeli athletes were taken hostage.
"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," ABC News President David Westin wrote in announcing Jennings' death to colleagues.
The Toronto-born newsman and high school dropout, who smoked when he was younger, stunned colleagues when he informed them of his illness in an e-mail on April 5. He soon began a program of chemotherapy.
"There will be good days and bad, which means that some days I may be cranky and some days really cranky," he wrote.
ABC noted in its special broadcast that Jennings regularly called into the program during his illness, offering suggestions, comments and criticisms.
Ted Koppel, anchor of ABC's "Nightline" program, recalled the anchor's dashing good looks, and noted a resemblance to the actor Roger Moore in some of the James Bond movies.
"He and I joked the last time I went up to visit just a few days ago that between the two of us we'd put in 83 years at ABC News." Koppel said. "He was a warm and loving and surprisingly sentimental man."
Jennings was named anchor and senior editor of "World News Tonight" in 1983. He won numerous awards and honors in his more than 20 years in the position.
"It's impossible to believe that he is not going to be with us," Walters said.
The passing of Jennings was the final chapter as an era of broadcast anchors with a commanding on-air presence came to an end.
NBC's Tom Brokaw stepped down in December after 21 years as anchor of "NBC Nightly News" and Dan Rather ended his 24-year career as CBS lead anchor last month, after a discredited report on President Bush's military service.
Jennings is survived by his wife Kayce Freed, his two children Elizabeth, 25 and Christopher, 23 and his sister, Sarah Jennings.
ABC Television is part of the Walt Disney Co.
(Additional reporting by Joanne Allen in Washington)