John Palmer, NBC News Veteran, Dies at 77

John Palmer in 2012 at the 60th anniversary party for the "Today" show.
John Palmer in 2012 at the 60th anniversary party for the "Today" show.
 NBCUniversal

John Palmer, the journalist whose career with NBC News spanned 40 years, has died. He was 77.

Palmer died Saturday after a brief illness, NBC News announced.

“We are deeply saddened to share the news that we have lost a valued friend and colleague," NBC News said in a statement. “John was a brilliant, brave and tireless journalist who guided viewers through many of the most significant events of the past half-century -- from the early days of the civil rights movement through the tragedy of 9/11."

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Palmer joined NBC News in 1962 and stayed with the network through 1990. He rejoined in 1994 and was with the network until his retirement from journalism in 2002. He most recently served as a national news correspondent based in Washington, D.C. During his career, he served as Today news anchor from 1982-1989.  Before that, he was NBC’s White House correspondent during the Carter and Reagan administrations. Palmer earned a number of awards during his career, including an Emmy Award for his reporting on the African famine.

On  April 25, 1980, Palmer reported from the White House lawn to break the news of the aborted rescue attempt of American hostages held in Iran. That story and the following coverage made him the first broadcast journalist to earn the White House press corps' Merriman Memorial Award for Excellence in presidential news coverage. Palmer also anchored the first hours of coverage of the Challenger Space Shuttle tragedy on January 28, 1986, and other special reports.

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Before covering the White House, Palmer was based in Paris from January 1976-September 1979. Previously, he was based out of Beirut, where he covered the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the Arab oil embargo, the war in Cyprus and the civil war in Angola. 

"His kindness is remembered by all of us, and it built lasting bonds throughout our news division," the NBC News statement continued.  “John held many positions over the course of his long career with NBC News, but his most treasured role was that of husband and father. Our love and support are with Nancy, Molly and Lee, Carter, Hope and the entire Palmer family.”

Palmer was from Kingsport, Tennessee, and graduated from Northwestern University before earning his Master’s Degree from Columbia University.

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