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Tom Brokaw

Thomas John "Tom" Brokaw (born February 6, 1940) is an American television journalist and author, and currently the interim moderator of NBC's Meet the Press. Brokaw is best known as the former anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News. His last broadcast as anchor was on December 1, 2004, after which he was succeeded by Brian Williams in a carefully planned transition. In the latter part of Brokaw's tenure, NBC Nightly News became the most watched cable or broadcast news program in the United States. Brokaw also hosted, wrote, and moderated special programs on a wide range of topics. Throughout his career, he has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors.

Brokaw serves on the Howard University School of Communications Board of Visitors and on the boards of trustees of the University of South Dakota, the Norton Simon Museum, the American Museum of Natural History and the International Rescue Committee. As well as his television journalism, he has written for periodicals and has authored books. He still works at NBC as a Special Correspondent and has worked on various documentaries for The History Channel and ESPN since his retirement as anchor.

He is the only person in NBC's history to host all three major NBC News programs in his long career: The Today Show in the '70s, NBC Nightly News in the '80s, '90s and '00s and as an interim replacement for Tim Russert on Meet the Press in 2008.


Early life

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 1962.

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.



His television career began at KTIV in Sioux City, Iowa, followed by a three-year stint at KMTV in Omaha, Nebraska.

In 1965, he became an editor of the late-evening news on WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia. The following year he joined NBC News, reporting from California and anchoring the 11 p.m. news for KNBC-TV in Los Angeles.


From 1973-1976 he was an NBC News White House correspondent, covering the Watergate scandal. During this time, he was asked by the higher-rated CBS News to join it after CBS's management had decided its reporter, Dan Rather, was too hostile to then-President Richard Nixon. The switch never happened after word of it was leaked to the press.

In 1976, Brokaw became NBC News' Today Show host. He was also the floor reporter for the two major parties' presidential nominating conventions.


In 1982, Brokaw began co-anchoring NBC Nightly News, along with co-anchor Roger Mudd. When Mudd went on to host Meet the Press and American Almanac, a weekly newsmagazine, Brokaw became the sole anchor of the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw on September 5, 1983.

In 1987, he wrote The Arms, the Men, the Money, investigating Contra rebels. That same year he conducted the first one-on-one American TV interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, and won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award. He also moderated the debates among all declared presidential candidates of both the Republican and Democratic parties.

In 1989, he reported the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Also in January 1989, he was the first person ever to do a The More You Know public service announcement.


From 1992-93 he anchored The Brokaw Report series of prime-time "critical issues" specials. He was also host, with Katie Couric, of a prime-time newsmagazine called Now. The show aired from 1993-94, and was folded into the multi-night Dateline NBC program.

In 1995, Brokaw reported from the site of the Oklahoma City bombing. The following year he reported from the scene of the TWA flight 800 tragedy.

In 1997, he interviewed Charlie Trie and Johnny Chung, key figures in the campaign finance abuse scandal.

In 1999, he conducted the first North American TV interview with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, in Moscow. He also traveled to Tirana, Albania during NATO airstrikes in Yugoslavia.


In 2000, he conducted the first American TV interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Moscow. He was also Master of Ceremonies at the opening of the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Brokaw was Grand Marshall for the 112th Tournament of Roses parade in 2001.

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, when MSNBC took over coverage. During the early stages of the disaster, Brokaw famously responded to Lauer's speculations over loss of life after the second tower fell by saying, "This is war. This is a declaration and execution of an attack on the United States. He also asked "Are we at war?" and exclaimed "War! War!" in the style of a sports chant. Throughout the day, Brokaw was joined by David Bloom, Jim Miklaszewski from the Pentagon, author Tom Clancy, Senator John McCain, and NBC Aviation expert Robert Hager at different points in the day, just to name a few.

Brokaw returned for the following two days and expanded the NBC Nightly News to midnight, as well. Along with his contemporaries, Peter Jennings of ABC and Dan Rather of CBS, the three anchors provided thorough and blanket coverage of the attacks.

In late September 2001, a letter containing anthrax was addressed to him as part of the 2001 anthrax attacks. Brokaw wasn't harmed, but two NBC News employees were infected.

In 2002, Brokaw announced his intention to go under retirement as anchor of the NBC Nightly News effective after the 2004 Presidential election. NBC then announced that Brian Williams would be Brokaw's successor as the anchor of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. NBC also announced that Brokaw will remain with NBC News in a part-time capacity through 2014 serving as an analyst as well as anchoring and producing documentary programs.

By the end of his time as Nightly News anchor, Brokaw was regarded as the most popular news personality in the United States. His program was consistently rated the highest evening news show, topping Dan Rather and Peter Jennings in the evening news ratings. This may explain why Brokaw was the only one of the three evening news anchors to have a sit-down interview with President George W. Bush.

Along with the two other pillars of the so-called "Big Three" — Peter Jennings (ABC) and Dan Rather (CBS) — 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 finally Jennings's death in August 2005, brought that era to a close.

He closed his final Nightly News broadcast in front of 15.7 million viewers on NBC 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 time American viewers became familiar with Tom Brokaw and his NBC Nightly News the program was consistently ranked #1, Peter Jennings and World News Tonight was ranked #2, Dan Rather and the CBS Evening News was ranked #3. Earlier in his career, CBS under Cronkite and Rather was #1 in the early and mid 1980s, Jennings was #1 in the late 1980s and mid 1990s, and Brokaw took over as America's most watched anchor in the late 1990s, holding the spot until his retirement in 2004.


In 2006, Tom Brokaw became the second journalist to receive the prestigious Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United States Military Academy at West Point. The first one was legendary news anchor man Walter Cronkite in 1997.

He is presently on the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the International Rescue Committee.

Some political independents, Libertarians, Reform party members and Green Party members have publicly urged Tom Brokaw to run as their candidate for national office: U.S. Senate, or President.

Brokaw recently completed a documentary on global warming for the Discovery Channel entitled Global Warming: What You Need to Know, with Tom Brokaw.

On November 19, 2006, Brokaw delivered the keynote speech at the annual Dedication Day Ceremony at the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, honoring those who fought and died in the American Civil War.

On January 2, 2007, Brokaw delivered one of the eulogies during the state funeral of former President Gerald R. Ford.

On May 28, 2007, Brokaw appeared on the History Channel special, "Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed", describing Darth Vader's attire.

Brokaw was the host for the rollout of the Boeing 787 airplane on July 8, 2007.

Brokaw hosted and conducted interviews for the History Channel's 1968 with Tom Brokaw, a 2-hour documentary that first aired on December 9, 2007 which examined one of the most tumultuous years in American history.

Brokaw hosted and conducted interviews for the History Channel's 2-hour program entitled King that aired on April 4, 2008, the 40th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

Brokaw is currently NBC News Special Correspondent, providing election analysis along with Brian Williams, Chris Matthews, and Keith Olbermann.

On June 13, 2008, Brokaw broke into NBC's second round coverage of the U.S. open golf tournament at 3:39 p.m. EDT and publicly announced the death of his longtime friend and colleague, NBC News Washington Bureau Chief and Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert. The NBC NEWS special report announcing Russert's death was also broadcasted on CNBC, and MSNBC. Later that night, he hosted a one-hour special program on NBC memorializing Russert and hosted the following Sunday's episode of Meet the Press remembering Tim Russert.

On June 22, 2008, guest moderator Brian Williams announced at the end of that day's show that Tom Brokaw will replace Tim Russert, on an interim basis, as host of Meet the Press, chosen to serve as moderator until the end of the 2008 Presidential Campaign. NBC has not discussed any potential permanent replacements for Russert; Brokaw has stated that he has no intention of filling the position permanently, stating that "the plan is for me to be in place until they can find somebody who can take it over on a permanent basis. Rumored candidates for the job include Chuck Todd, David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell, Chris Matthews, and Gwen Ifill.

Brokaw hosted the second presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain October 7, 2008 at Belmont University's Curb Event Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The debate had a town-hall meeting format. Brokaw received criticism for his handling of the debate.

Career timeline


  • 1998 The Greatest Generation ISBN 0-375-50202-5 (hardback) ISBN 0-385-33462-1 (paperback) Depicts the Americans who came of age during the Great Depression and fought World War II.
  • 1999 The Greatest Generation Speaks ISBN 0-375-50394-3 (hardback) ISBN 0-385-33538-5 (paperback)
  • 2001 An Album of Memories ISBN 0-375-50581-4 (hardback) ISBN 0-375-76041-5 (paperback)
  • 2002 A Long Way from Home: Growing Up in the American Heartland ISBN 0-375-50763-9 (hardback) ISBN 0-375-75935-2 (paperback)
  • 2006 Galen Rowell: A Retrospective ISBN 1-57805-115-0 (hardback) Foreword by Tom Brokaw
  • 2007 Boom!: Voices of the Sixties Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today ISBN 1-40006-457-0 (hardback)


Public and industry awards

  • Peabody Award for a report called To Be An American
  • Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for excellence in broadcast journalism for Dateline NBC documentary special, Why Can't We Live Together on hidden realities of racial separation in suburban America
  • Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for excellence in broadcast journalism for his interview with Mikhail Gorbachev
  • seven Emmy Awards including one for China in Crisis special report
  • 1990 National Headliner Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews for advancing the understanding of religion, race and ethnicity.
  • 1993 Emmy award for reporting on floods in the Midwest
  • 1995 Dennis Kauff Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism from Boston University
  • 1995 Lowell Thomas Award from Marist College.
  • 1997 University of Missouri–Columbia School of Journalism Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism
  • 1997 inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame
  • 1998 Fred Friendly First Amendment Award, a tribute to those "individuals whose broadcast career reflects a consistent devotion to freedom of speech and the principles embodied in the First Amendment."
  • 1998 American Legion award for distinguished public service in the field of communication.
  • 1998 Citizens' Scholarship Foundation of America's President's Award recognizing "devotion to helping young people through scholarships."
  • 1999 Congressional Medal of Honor Society's "Tex" McCrary Excellence in Journalism Award
  • 1999 Emmy award for international coverage of the Kosovo conflict
  • 2005 Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 2005 Four Freedoms Medal: Freedom of Speech And Expression
  • 2006 Washington State University Edward R. Murrow School of Communications Lifetime Achievement in Broadcasting Award
  • 2006 Sylvanus Thayer Award: United States Military Academy at West Point
  • 2006 Walter Cronkite Award for Journalism Excellence at Arizona State University
  • 2007 Horatio Alger Award for overcoming adversity to achieve success through the American free enterprise system from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Inc.

Honorary degrees


External links

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