John Palmer, a veteran reporter for NBC News for more than 40 years (1962-2002), died Saturday after a brief illness at a Washington hospital.
Palmer's wife Nancy confirmed he died of pulmonary fibrosis at age 77.
The gentlemanly Palmer worked for NBC from 1962 to 1990, co-anchoring Today from 1982-1989, then returned to the network from 1994 until 2002.
NBC News said in a statement:
"John was a brilliant, tireless journalist who guided us through many of the most significant events of the past half-century - from the early days of the civil rights movement through the tragedy of 9/11."
"He covered five presidents and traveled to every corner of the world, always showing the empathy and compassion that helped set him apart. His kindness is remembered by all of us."
"He built lasting bonds throughout our news division. "
In 1980 he landed one of his biggest scoops, breaking the news of the Carter administration's failed attempt to rescue the American hostages being held in Iran.
He won the Merriman Smith Memorial Award for excellence in presidential news coverage, making him the first broadcast journalist to receive that honor.
"John Palmer brought to the White House beat his foreign policy experience and a steady reassuring voice, in good times and in bad," NBC News' Andrea Mitchell said.
From 1982-1989 he was the news anchor on the Today show during a highly successful period when Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley co-hosted.