Undated handout photo of ABC News television anchor Peter Jennings
Ho  /  Reuters
ABC News television anchor Peter Jennings is seen in this undated publicity photograph. Jennings died on August 7, 2005 at his home in New York.
By Brian Williams Anchor & “Nightly News” managing editor
NBC News
updated 8/8/2005 6:30:36 PM ET 2005-08-08T22:30:36

We began our broadcast Monday with a loss that is painfully close for all of us, and for many viewers. Last night, surrounded by his family, Peter Jennings, the anchor and senior editor of ABC’s World News Tonight lost a battle with lung cancer.

We have lost a man who was a direct competitor and who was very direct in life.

He was also a friend and a towering figure in television news: a man who was just as at home in foreign capitols as he was in the millions of American homes he was invited into each evening.

He saw his job as exploring and then explainingthe world, which he did each night for 22 years.

He was equal parts fearless and fascinated, curious and relentless. Just ask the two men who competed against Peter Jennings for decades.

"He had the looks of a leading man," says Dan Rather  "He was a scholar and correspondent and he had the bravery of a knight."

"We all made each other better at what we do," says Tom Brokaw. "And we had a common DNA, if you will: We were all reporters first and anchors second."

Peter Charles Jennings was born in Toronto in 1938, you might say, into the family business. His father was a prominent broadcaster and among the founders of Canadian public television.  Young Peter called himself a “bone lazy” student who then became a self-taught journalist.

He was so good so young, he caught the attention of ABC News in the U.S., and was hired as an anchorman back in 1964 at the age of 26.

But Jennings didn’t feel he was ready for the inside job, and first wanted an understanding of the outside world. So he became a foreign correspondent, covering hot spots for the next decade. His exclusives included the first interview with Ayatollah Khomeini.

And after years of foreign postings and world leaders, came the call from New York. In 1983, he became the sole anchor of World News Tonight.

He had many loves: chief among them his wife Kaycee, his children Elizabeth and Christopher. He loved jazz music and he quietly volunteered at a New York soup kitchen. He raised and gave away a fortune to charitable organizations.

All the while his work, his first love, went on.

Until that day in April: Jennings, a longtime smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer, and it was time to share it with the world.

That announcement from Jennings was the last the world heard, directly from Peter. Intense chemotherapy followed, and then the fight of his life. His death last night staggered his colleagues.

It was impossible to talk about Peter Jennings today without using words like "elegant," "dashing," "unflappable," and "urbane."

And yet early on, at least, the reality was somewhat different. The young man who never completed the 10th grade, who was terrified of moving to America, grew to be an icon of American life.

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