Dependable, reliable and reassuring, broadcast news correspondent-anchor Charles Gibson was a constant presence in the homes of viewers for over 30 years on two of television's most watched morning and evening news programs. Beginning his career with a local affiliate station and a syndicated new service in the early-1970s, Gibson signed on with ABC News in 1975 as a correspondent covering the White House and the House of Representatives. In 1987, the avuncular Gibson began co-hosting the morning news program, "Good Morning, America" (ABC, 1975- ), alongside popular co-anchor, Joan Lunden. Coming from a news background, Gibson handled many of the harder news interviews for the program, which surged past the previously unbeatable "Today" (NBC, 1952- ) in the ratings, thanks in large part to his and Lunden's chemistry. Gibson was so revered both by his network and the public at large, that after the premature death of beloved "ABC World News Tonight" (1953- ) anchor Peter Jennings in 2005, he was named as Jennings' replacement in 2006. Once again the venerable anchorman delivered a much needed boost, pushing the renamed "World News with Charles Gibson" to the top of the ratings heap. In 2009, the elder statesman of ABC News, officially retired - much to the regret of grateful viewers and the network he had called home for nearly 35 years.
Born March 9, 1942 in Evanston, IL, Gibson began his career in broadcasting at Princeton Universirty as news director at a college radio station. Deciding to pursue a radio career at first, he served as producer for the RKO Network in Washington, DC before moving on to television in 1970 as an anchor and reporter for DC's WMAL-TV (later WJLA), an ABC affiliate. In 1973, he was named a National Journalism Fellow at the National Endowment for the Humanities. He would later served as a board member of the same program, renamed the Knight-Wallace Fellows at Michigan. Gibson left WMAL to join syndicated news service TVN in 1974, covering the Watergate conspiracy trials and President Richard Nixon's resignation. Lured to ABC News in 1975, he was eventually assigned to the White House, where he covered the administration of and subsequent 1976 re-election campaign of President Gerald Ford. After Jimmy Carter took office, Gibson became a roving correspondent for ABC News before finding berth in 1981 covering the House of Representatives - specifically Democratic leader Tip O'Neill and the handling of President Ronald Reagan's legislative agenda.
When he was switched to "Good Morning, America" in 1987, it was said to be for his news credentials as much as his easygoing manner. Gibson's early-morning smile and a thoughtfulness emphasized by a slightly-heavy brow, won him fans almost immediately. "GMA" rose to the top of the ratings heap, where it see-sawed with its closest competition, "The Today Show" for years. Gibson, who had demonstrated an enthusiasm for political reporting stemming from his early days, had championed all "GMA" coverage of politics and political campaigns. Included among his impressive interviews were such notables as the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, South African president Nelson Mandela and U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher. Gibson also appeared to have cornered the market on interviews with political leaders about their books. He helped spearhead the "GMA" regional bus tours around America, where his favorite stops were college campuses. During his "GMA" tenure, Gibson occasionally worked outside the confines of his morning show, hosting a PBS documentary on gambling called "Lucky Numbers" (1990), broadcasting on ABC News Radio, and serving as a substitute host for Ted Koppel on the late night news program "ABC News Nightline" (1980- ). Gibson also substituted as an anchor for "ABC World News Tonight," filling in for anchor Peter Jennings whenever duty called.
But whether it was for "Good Morning America" or the nightly news, Gibson was always in the thick of the day's top stories. He conducted a live interview with the wife of Yitzhak Rabin just hours after his funeral in 1995, reported live from the scene of the terrorist bombings at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995; and was part of ABC's award-winning live coverage of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. Over the years, Gibson became the go-to correspondent for many the world's important stories, as well as a top interviewer for the network. In February 2003, he anchored "Good Morning America" from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX to report on the loss of the space shuttle, Columbia after it was destroyed upon reentry after a 16-day mission. Gibson later won an Emmy Award for his one-hour "Primetime Thursday" investigation, "Columbia: Final Mission," which aired in July 2003. In another significant "Primetime Thursday" special, he interviewed survivors of the Branch Davidians on the 10th anniversary of the FBI raid on their Waco, TX compound.
Continuing to rack up the stories, in 2004, Gibson interviewed baseball legend Pete Rose, getting him to admit for the first time on camera that he had bet on baseball. Later that year, Gibson moderated the 90-minute town hall-style debate between President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry. Some notable interviews he conducted at the time were with Bush at his Crawford ranch a week before the 2004 election; with President Bill Clinton upon releasing his candid memoir, My Life; and with then-CIA director Porter Goss (later forced to resign) from the agency's headquarters, making Gibson the first morning television anchor to report live from inside the secretive building. Meanwhile, he traveled to Vatican City in 2005 to report on the death of Pope John Paul II.
Due in no small part to this illustrious career in hard news, by mid-2006, Gibson was named sole anchor of "ABC World News Tonight" after the network ditched its experimental dual anchor format. In January 2006, following the untimely death of Jennings from lung cancer in August 2005, ABC had promoted Elizabeth Vargas and foreign correspondent Bob Woodruff to the anchor chair. But after only a month, Woodruff was seriously injured by a roadside bomb in Taji, Iraq and spent months in sheltered hospice. Then in February, Vargas announced she was due to have her second child the following August. With declining ratings and the looming prospect of Katie Couric taking over the anchor chair at CBS, the network decided to replace Vargas and Woodruff with Gibson in May 2006. It proved to be the right move, with "ABC World News" lurching ahead of both the its competitors. Much of the credit was given to the elder anchor of the three, Gibson, who took the nightly ratings wins in stride, but with great pride.
With the news program redubbed "World News with Charles Gibson," Gibson led the network charge in the coverage of the 2008 presidential elections. Alongside fellow ABC News correspondent George Stephanopoulos, he moderated the Democratic Party debate between U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Later that year he would also sit down with Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin for an interview that drew criticism over Gibson's pressing Palin to opine on what he referred to as the "Bush Doctrine," a wide-ranging term used to encompass many of the former president's foreign policy principles. With the election decided, Gibson co-anchored the televised event, "A Moment in History: The Inauguration of Barack Obama" (ABC, 2009). Near the end of his successful tenure with ABC News, the anchor presented the investigative report, "Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil" (ABC, 2009), an examination of who controls the industry and pricing and its affect on the lives of everyday Americans. After announcing his retirement and replacement on ABC News by Diane Sawyer, Gibson anchored his final edition of "World News" in December of 2009, leaving behind a grateful viewing public and a pristine reputation as one of the greatest TV news journalists of all time.