Bob Schieffer, longtime CBS newsman and anchor of “Face the Nation,” announced Wednesday he will retire come summer, concluding a long career covering politics.
During his 50 years in the field, Schieffer has become a beloved figure in journalism, admired not only for his on-air skills but also for his courtesy and humility in a business rife with vanity.
“It’s been a great adventure,” he said. “You know, I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. Because as a little boy, as a young reporter, I always wanted to be a journalist. And I got to do that. And not many people get to do that. I couldn’t have asked for a better life or something that was more fun and more fulfilling.”
His departure opens up a plum high-profile Sunday-morning slot as host of “FTN.” Among possibilities mentioned in early speculation are CBS’ Major Garrett and Norah O’Donnell, CNN’s Jake Tapper and ABC’s Jonathan Karl.
Schieffer made the announcement during the annual Schieffer Symposium at Texas Christian University, his alma mater, because, he said, he wanted to end his career where it began. He graduated from TCU in 1959. The journalism school and the college in which it is it located now share his name.
“I wanted this to be the place, and I wanted you all to be the first to know: This summer I am going to retire,” he told the audience.
During his career, Schieffer, 78, has covered every major political beat in Washington, D.C., including Congress, the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House. He has interviewed every U.S. president since Richard Nixon, as well as most who ran for the position. He has moderated presidential debates during the past three election campaigns: in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
And he has won nearly every major broadcast journalism award, including eight Emmys. In 2008, he was named a living legend by the Library of Congress, according to CBS News.
“He’s been an inspiration and a mentor to so many colleagues — and frankly, to me,” CBS News President David Rhodes said in an internal memo. “You could see at TCU tonight how that inspiration extends to a wider community of reporters and editors and academics.”
Schieffer’s career began in 1957, when he accepted a job with a local Fort Worth radio station called KXOL, for $1 an hour.
He later went to work as a police reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram where, in November 1963, he got his big break. He answered a phone call from a woman wanting a ride to Dallas. She thought her son, Lee Harvey Oswald, might have assassinated John F. Kennedy and she heard over the radio he had been arrested. The moment put him inside a worldwide news storm.
“In those days I always wore a snap-brim hat, because I wanted to look like a detective,” he told CNN’s Larry King in 1999. “We didn’t ever lie, but if people didn’t ask us, we didn’t tell them — we let them assume what they wanted to assume.”
Two years later, Schieffer became the first reporter from a Texas metropolitan newspaper to report from Vietnam. When he returned from the war, he moved into broadcast news.
Although he had always wanted to be a reporter, he said, he had not always wanted to work in TV “because there wasn’t any TV when I was a little boy,” he told Larry King in 1999.
In 1969, he moved to Washington and soon joined CBS. Within a few years, he was the anchor for the Sunday evening news and, later, anchor for the Saturday edition of the “CBS Evening News.” For the past 24 years, has been the face of “Face the Nation,” the network’s Sunday morning news show.
“I’ve never believed much in the self-made man theory,” he said during Wednesday’s symposium. “I think we all need a little help. And I had a lot of help along the way.”
Schieffer said one reason he has decided to retire now is because he is pleased with the network’s performance. “Like any large organization, we’ve had our ups and down,” he said. “We’re on a high right now.” The other reason, he said, is because he wants to quit while he’s ahead.
“I covered the Senate long enough to see people carried out on a gurney,” he told the Star-Telegram, “and I didn’t want to be one of those people in my profession.”
“Maybe I have taken a little off my fastball,” he added, “but I’ve still got a pretty good fastball.”
Schieffer told the newspaper that he and his wife, Pat, will continue to live in Washington, D.C.
CBS has not said who might replace him. Rhodes said in his memo that “this is Bob’s night and I hope we can all celebrate with him the remarkable achievement which is his career here at CBS.”