John Palmer (TV journalist)

John Palmer
Born John Spencer Palmer
(1935-09-10)September 10, 1935
Kingsport, Tennessee, U.S.
Died August 3, 2013(2013-08-03) (aged 77)
Washington, D. C., U.S.
Cause of death pulmonary fibrosis
Alma mater Northwestern University
Columbia University (Masters)
Occupation TV journalist

John Spencer Palmer (September 10, 1935 – August 3, 2013) was a long time news correspondent for NBC News, American television broadcaster and news anchor.


Palmer worked for the NBC network over the course of 40 years, first from 1962 to 1990; and again from 1994 until his retirement in 2002. During his tenure with NBC News, he held several positions, including correspondent stints in Chicago, Paris, and the Middle East; White House correspondent (1979–1982); news anchor for The Today Show (1982–1989).[1]

In April 1980, Palmer reported on the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, the mission to rescue the American hostages held by Iran. This earned him the Merriman Smith Memorial Award for excellence in presidential news coverage, and he was the first broadcast journalist to receive the award.[2]

On January 28, 1986, Palmer broke into NBC's regularly scheduled programing from the New York news desk at 11:40 am to report "...we've just witnessed the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger...there has been a major problem with that launch." As a replay of launch began to play, Palmer's calm voice over brought the chilling news to the nation..."In just a few moments you will see an explosion. The Space Shuttle Challenger apparently will see it very clearly on your television sets." [3]


Palmer officially joined the Today cast as news anchor on September 27, 1982, replacing Chris Wallace, who had read the news and served as Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley's Washington co-anchor.[4] The team of Gumbel, Pauley, Palmer, Willard Scott, and Gene Shalit helped take The Today Show to the top of the ratings in 1986, where it stayed until the end of the decade.[5] In the late 1980s, Palmer was the primary substitute co-host of Today on days when Gumbel was away.

Post Today

After serving as Today news anchor for seven years, Palmer was abruptly replaced by Deborah Norville in September 1989, and was moved to Norville's old position at NBC News at Sunrise. WTVJ, then the NBC owned-and-operated television station in Miami, offered Palmer the lead local news anchor chair in late 1989, but Palmer turned down the opportunity.[6] Palmer left NBC News in March 1990 to anchor a syndicated program, Instant Recall. After that show was canceled, Palmer joined the Christian Science Monitor in December 1991 as anchor of Monitor Channel's short-lived World Monitor newscast. He later served as Washington correspondent for Monitor Radio.[7]

In 1994, NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert and NBC News president Andrew Lack invited Palmer to return to the network as a Washington correspondent, and Palmer accepted.[7] He was soon back on familiar ground, serving as White House correspondent for the weekend edition of NBC Nightly News and an occasional substitute news anchor for The Today Show. He retired from NBC News in January 2002.

Palmer was host of The Informed Citizen and The Prudent Advisor on Retirement Living TV.[8]


He was also the recipient of several honorary Doctorate degrees.


Palmer was born in Kingsport, Tennessee. Palmer was a graduate of Northwestern University and obtained a master's degree from Columbia University. Palmer died at the age of 77 on August 3, 2013 in Washington, D.C. from pulmonary fibrosis. He is survived by his wife Nancy and three grown daughters.[9]


  1. "Longtime NBC news correspondent John Palmer dies". USA Today. 3 August 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  2. Longtime NBC News reporter John Palmer dies at 77; NBC News
  3. The Challenger Disaster: NBC News Special Report (Complete). 22 January 2016 via YouTube.
  4. "NBC Newsmen to Swap Jobs." Associated Press, 21 September 1982.
  5. "'Good Morning' Outdoes 'Today." Los Angeles Times, 25 January 1990, page 8.
  6. Tom Jicha, "NBC Veteran Turns Down WTVJ," Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), Nov. 30, 1989.
  7. 1 2 "John Palmer To Return To Familiar Turf at NBC." Chicago Tribune, 14 September 1994, page 4.
  8. "Home".
  9. USA Today, Longtime NBC news correspondent John Palmer dies August 3, 2013.

External links

Preceded by
Chris Wallace
Today Show News Anchor
September 27, 1982-July 14, 1989
Succeeded by
Deborah Norville
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