Jim Lehrer was born in Wichita, Kansas to Lois Catherine (née Chapman), a bank clerk, and Harry Frederick Lehrer, a bus station manager.He attended middle school in Beaumont, Texas, and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio.
He graduated with an associate’s degree from Victoria College, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri in 1956.
After graduating from college,Lehrer worked for three years as an infantry officer at the United States Marine Corps.
Lehrer began his journalism career at The Dallas Morning News ,Texas, in 1959. He later worked for the Dallas Times-Herald as a political columnist where he covered the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. In 1968 he became the city editor.
He 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. Later, he moved to PBS in Washington, D.C., in 1972, 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.
In October 1975, Lehrer became the Washington correspondent for the Robert MacNeil Report on Thirteen/WNET New York. He got a promotion as co-anchor two moths later on December 1, 1975, and the program was accordingly renamed The MacNeil/Lehrer Report
In September 1983, Lehrer and MacNeil relaunched their show as The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour but it got renamed to The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, after McNeil’s departure in 1995. The program was renamed the PBS in 2009.
Lehrer stepped down as anchor of the PBS NewsHour on June 6, 2011, but continued to moderate the Friday news analysis segments and be involved with the show’s production company, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions.
Lehrer received several awards and honors during 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.
He also moderated 12 presidential debates, more than any other person in U.S. history
Jim was also a writer and authored several novels, plays ,screen plays and memoirs. Some of his work include Top Down, a novel based on the events surrounding Kennedy’s assassination and a play, Bell, produced by the National Geographic Society,as part of their 125th anniversary celebration
Lehrer was married to Kate Lehrer, a novelist, and together they had three daughters and six grandchildren.
Jim died peacefully in his sleep at home in Washington on Thursday.