Veteran NBC News correspondent John Palmer dies

Story highlights

  • Journalists recall Palmer as a "great gentleman and a great reporter"
  • John Palmer dies after a brief illness, NBC announces
  • He worked for NBC between 1962-1990, then from 1995-2002
  • Palmer distinguished himself covering world events, multiple presidents

NBC News veteran John Palmer -- who worked the White House beat during two presidential administrations and anchored the network's initial coverage of the space shuttle Challenger disaster -- died Saturday, the network announced.

The Kingsport, Tennessee, native, 77, passed away after a brief illness, according to NBC.

"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," NBC News said in a statement. "He covered five presidents and traveled to every corner of the world, always showing the empathy and compassion that helped set him apart."

A graduate of Northwestern University and Columbia University, Palmer joined NBC in 1962.

He spent considerable time overseas earlier in his tenure with the network, including in Beirut during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war and in Paris between 1976 and 1979.

By 1980, Palmer was back in the United States -- including his reporting on the failed attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran, which earned him the Merriman Smith Memorial Award for presidential news coverage -- as a White House correspondent.

He was a news anchor on NBC's "Today" from 1982 to 1989.

Palmer interviewed the likes of Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, legendary medical researcher Jonas Salk and Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan as the anchor of "Instant Recall," a nationally syndicated news program, starting in 1990.

That was the year he left NBC, going on to work parts of three years with Monitor Radio and Television as an anchor and correspondent. Palmer rejoined NBC in January 1995, staying with the network through his retirement in 2002.

News of Palmer's death spurred an outpouring of admiration from people around the news media landscape. The Washington Post's Dan Balz called the late NBC stalwart "a terrific journalist" and "very good man."

Deborah Norville, who replaced Palmer as news anchor on the "Today" show, recalled via Twitter him being "kind, welcoming (and) helpful to me years ago."

CBS News' Mark Knoller echoed many in calling Palmer a "great gentleman and a great reporter," while former Atlantic and Bloomberg reporter Jared Keller described him as "a wonderful friend and one of my journalistic role models."

"There was no one in the news business kinder than John Palmer," Keller tweeted. "No one."

People we've lost in 2013