Tom Brokaw, former NBC News anchor, signing copies of Life Is What You Make It
*4/27/10 7:30 PM at Barnes & Noble – Lincoln Triangle. New York, NY.
Thomas John “Tom” Brokaw (born February 6, 1940) is an American television journalist and author best known as the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News from 1982 to 2004. He is the author of The Greatest Generation (1998), a runaway bestseller, and other books and the recipient of numerous awards and honors. He is the only person to host all three major NBC News programs: The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, and, briefly, Meet the Press. He currently serves as a Special Correspondent for NBC News and works on documentaries for other outlets.
Brokaw was born in Webster, South Dakota, the son of Eugenia “Jean” (née Conley), who worked in sales and as a post office clerk, and Anthony Orville “Red” Brokaw. He was the eldest of their three sons and was named after his maternal great-grandfather, Thomas Conley. His father was a descendant of Huguenot immigrants Bourgon and Cathernine (le Fevre) Broucard and his mother was Irish American. His paternal great-grandfather, Richard P. Brokaw, founded the town of Bristol, South Dakota, and the Brokaw House, a small hotel and the first structure in Bristol.
Brokaw’s father was a construction foreman for the Army Corps of Engineers. He worked at the Black Hills Ordnance Depot (BHOD) and helped construct Fort Randall Dam; his job often required the family to resettle during Brokaw’s early childhood. The Brokaws lived for short periods in Bristol, Igloo (the small residential community of the BHOD), and Pickstown, before settling in Yankton, where Brokaw attended high school.
As a high school student attending Yankton Senior High School, Brokaw was governor of South Dakota American Legion Boys State, and in that capacity he accompanied then South Dakota Governor Joe Foss to New York City for a joint appearance on a TV game show. It was to be the beginning of a long relationship with Foss, whom Brokaw would later feature in his book about World War II veterans, The Greatest Generation.
Tom Brokaw dropped out of The University of Iowa, where he says he majored in “beer and co-eds” before receiving his B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion in 1964.
He has been married to Meredith Lynn Auld (a former Miss South Dakota and author) since 1962. They have three daughters, Jennifer Jean, Andrea Brooks and Sara Auld.
Brokaw’s television career began at KTIV in Sioux City, Iowa, followed by stints at KMTV in Omaha, Nebraska and WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1966, he joined NBC News, reporting from California and anchoring the 11 p.m. news for KNBC-TV in Los Angeles. In 1973, NBC made Brokaw White House correspondent, covering the Watergate scandal, and anchor of the Saturday editions of Nightly News. He became host of NBC’s Today Show in 1976 and remained in the job until 1982.
Brokaw preparing for a live broadcast in the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
On April 5, 1982, Brokaw began co-anchoring NBC Nightly News from New York with Roger Mudd in Washington. After a year, NBC News president Reuven Frank concluded that the dual-anchor program was not working and selected Brokaw to be sole anchor. The NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw commenced on September 5, 1983.
As anchor, Brokaw conducted the first one-on-one American television interviews with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was the only network anchor in Berlin when the Berlin Wall fell. He and Katie Couric hosted a prime-time newsmagazine, Now, that aired from 1993–94 before being folded into the multi-night Dateline NBC program.
Brokaw with Vladimir Putin before an interview on 2 June 2000.
On September 11, 2001, Brokaw joined Katie Couric and Matt Lauer around 9:30 a.m., following the live attack on the South Tower of the World Trade Center, and continued to anchor all day, until after midnight. Following collapse of the second tower, Brokaw observed, “This is war. This is a declaration and an execution of an attack on the United States.” He continued to anchor coverage to midnight on the following two days. Later that month, a letter containing anthrax was addressed to him as part of the 2001 anthrax attacks. Brokaw was not harmed, but two NBC News employees were infected.
In 2002, NBC announced that Brokaw would retire as anchor of the NBC Nightly News following the 2004 Presidential election, to be succeeded by Brian Williams. Brokaw would remain with NBC News in a part-time capacity through 2014, serving as an analyst and anchoring and producing documentary programs.
Brokaw closed his final Nightly News broadcast in front of 15.7 million viewers on NBC on December 1, 2004, by saying:
“ That’s Nightly News for this Wednesday night. I’m Tom Brokaw. You’ll see Brian Williams tomorrow night; I’ll see you along the way. ”
By the end of his time as Nightly News anchor, Brokaw was regarded as the most popular news personality in the United States. Nightly News had moved into first place in the Nielsen ratings in late 1996 and held onto the spot for the remainder of Brokaw’s tenure on the program, placing him ahead of ABC’s Peter Jennings and World News Tonight and CBS’s Dan Rather and the CBS Evening News
Brokaw in 2006 speaking about the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Along with Jennings and Rather, Brokaw helped usher in the era of the TV news anchor as lavishly compensated, globe-trotting star in the 1980s. The magnitude of a news event could be measured by whether Brokaw and his counterparts on the other two networks showed up on the scene. Brokaw’s retirement in December 2004, followed by Rather’s ouster from the CBS Evening News in March 2005 and Jennings’s death in August 2005, brought that era to a close.
After Nightly News
After leaving the anchor chair, Brokaw remained at NBC as Special Correspondent, providing periodic reports for Nightly News. He served as an NBC analyst during the 2008 presidential election campaignand moderated the second presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. He reported documentaries for the Discovery Channel and the History Channel and in 2006 delivered one of the eulogies during the state funeral of former President Gerald R. Ford.
On June 13, 2008, Brokaw broke into NBC programming to announce the death of NBC News Washington Bureau Chief and Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert. A week later, NBC announced that Brokaw would serve as host of Meet the Press on an interim basis. He was succeeded by David Gregory in December 2008.
Brokaw serves on the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the International Rescue Committee. He is also a member of the Howard University School of Communications Board of Visitors and a trustee of the University of South Dakota, the Norton Simon Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and the International Rescue Committee. He also provides the voiceover for a University of Iowa advertisement that airs on television during Iowa Hawkeyes athletic events.