Bob Schieffer's distinguished career as a journalist began, for all intents and purposes, on Nov. 22, 1963 - the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. A reporter for the Fort Worth...
Austin, Texas, USA
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Bob Lloyd Schieffer was born in Austin, TX on Feb. 25, 1937. The oldest of three children, he was raised after the age of five in the River Oaks section of Fort Worth, in a household that made do without the new innovation of television. After his 1955 graduation from North Side High School, where he played baseball and was the sports editor of the campus newspaper The Lariat, Schieffer enrolled in Texas Christian University with the intention of earning a medical degree. While working at local radio station KXOL to offset the cost of tuition, Schieffer switched his focus to journalism and English, eventually earning a bachelor's degree in 1959. During his undergraduate years, Schieffer's father died of a heart attack. He continued to live with his mother and siblings following his service in the United States Air Force, in which he rose to the rank of captain. As a cub reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Schieffer was assigned the night beat, covering incidents from the police blotter at a salary of $115 a week. Driving a Triumph TR4 convertible, Schieffer wore a snap-brim fedora to crime scenes so that witnesses would take him for a detective and be more forthcoming in answering questions.
Having covered the previous night's 6:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. shift, Schieffer was asleep on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963 when he was awakened by his brother and informed that President John F. Kennedy had fallen to a sniper's bullet in Dallas. Kennedy had been declared dead by the time Schieffer rushed into the city room of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and began answering telephones. One call came from a woman begging a ride into Dallas who identified herself as the mother of presumed presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Marguerite Oswald had been interviewed by the paper at the time of her son's 1959 defection to the Soviet Union and hoped the editors might arrange her passage into police custody. Schieffer's reporting from Dallas police headquarters helped the Fort Worth Star-Telegram scoop its competition - which included future CBS anchor Dan Rather - during the first days of the national tragedy. A portion of his interview with Marguerite Oswald was included in the 1964 Warren Report.
As the conflict in Vietnam escalated after 1964 and the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Schieffer badgered his superiors at the Star-Telegram into letting him make an unprecedented trip to Southeast Asia to interview Texas natives in the war zone. Despite initial discouragement, Schieffer was at last granted permission by his editors and ultimately interviewed over 200 servicemen while accompanying troops on helicopter flights and bombing missions. After his return stateside, Schieffer sent résumés to numerous national publications but his work in Vietnam had little currency outside of the Lone Star State. After being interviewed about his experiences overseas on a talk show broadcast by the Fort Worth NBC affiliate WPAB in 1966, Schieffer was offered a full time anchorman's position. His time slot was the 6 p.m. evening news, following NBC's popular "Huntley-Brinkley Report" (1956-1970). Breaking news during this time included the assassinations of civil rights leader Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy and the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention.
In 1969, Schieffer and his wife relocated to Washington, D.C., where he accepted a reporting job with WTTG, a former independent TV station acquired by the Metromedia broadcasting corporation. Schieffer's colleagues at Metromedia included Ed Turner, one of the founders of the CNN cable news network, future talk show host Maury Povich, and Connie Chung, later a respected news anchor. While covering an endless succession of protests related to local government and the Vietnam War, Schieffer lobbied for a position with the Washington Bureau of CBS News. After an initial round of discouragement, and on the cusp of returning to Fort Worth in defeat, he was offered an on-air reporter's job even though he had been told his regional accent was a detriment. Years later, while writing his memoirs, Schieffer followed the lead of a lingering hunch and deduced that the job offered to him in 1969 had been meant for Bob Hager, an aviation reporter for NBC who had interviewed at the same time. A secretary's momentary confusion over which Bob was to be given the job changed the course of Schieffer's career, pointing him into the heart of a major news outlet.
As a new hire at CBS, Schieffer rubbed elbows with such established broadcast journalists as Eric Sevareid, Daniel Schorr, Roger Mudd and fellow Texans Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. His first assignment was covering a masked ball thrown by President Richard M. Nixon's daughter Tricia for the children of the Washington elite. The following year, he was put into the position of Pentagon correspondent. In 1974, Schieffer became the CBS White House correspondent and in 1982 was named Chief Washington Correspondent. In 1973, Schieffer had begun anchoring the Sunday Edition of Cronkite's "CBS Evening News" (1962- ), a position he would hold until 1997. In 1977, he was chosen to anchor the Saturday evening news as well, while continuing to post dispatches from the White House. In 1991, Schieffer updated his résumé by agreeing to replace Leslie Stahl as moderator for the half-hour Sunday political talk show "Face the Nation" (1954- ). Following Dan Rather's retirement from "CBS Evening News" in the wake of the 2004 "Rathergate" scandal, involving Rather's reliance on inauthentic documents to discredit the military service of then-President George W. Bush, Schieffer stepped in as interim anchor until he was replaced by Katie Couric in 2006.
Through his long and distinguished career, Schieffer became one of the few journalists to deliver news from all four major news beats of Washington, D.C.: the Pentagon, the White House, the State Department, and Capitol Hill. He covered every Presidential election since 1972 and moderated televised debates between President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry in 2004 and presidential candidates Barak Obama and John McCain in 2008. A multiple Emmy Award winner, Schieffer was named Broadcaster of the Year in 2002 by the National Press Foundation and was cited as a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. He authored the books Face the Nation: My Favorite Stories from the First 50 Years of the Award-Winning News Broadcast, This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV and Bob Schieffer's America. In 2005, Texas Christian University established the Schieffer School of Journalism in his honor.
By Richard Harland Smith
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