Peter Jennings was the anchor and senior editor of ABC's "World News Tonight," where he established a reputation for independence and excellence in broadcast journalism. He was the network's principal anchor for breaking news, election coverage and special events.
As one of America's most distinguished journalists, Jennings reported many of the pivotal events that have shaped our world. He was in Berlin in the 1960s when the Berlin Wall was going up, and there in the '90s when it came down.
He covered the civil rights movement in the southern United States during the 1960s, and the struggle for equality in South Africa during the 1970s and '80s. He was there when the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965, and on the other side of the world when South Africans voted for the first time. He worked in every European nation that once was behind the Iron Curtain.
He was there when the independent political movement Solidarity was born in a Polish shipyard, and again when Poland's communist leaders were forced from power. And he was in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Romania and throughout the Soviet Union to record first the repression of communism and then its demise.
He was one of the first reporters to go to Vietnam in the 1960s, and went back to the killing fields of Cambodia in the 1980s to remind Americans that, unless they did something, the terror would return.
In broadcast journalism, Jennings had a reputation for putting the most complex and difficult issues on the agenda when others largely ignored them. From his early days in the Middle East and South Africa, to the contemporary challenges in Africa and the former Soviet Union, on education, health care and tobacco -- these are issues with which Jennings' stewardship at "World News Tonight" and his special series, "Peter Jennings Reporting," were associated.
He was the author, with Todd Brewster, of the acclaimed New York Times best seller, "The Century." Structured as an epic tale about "ourselves," it is a lavish book that features astonishing first-person accounts of the great events of the century. In 1999, he anchored the 12-hour ABC series, "The Century," and ABC's series for The History Channel, "America's Time." He and Brewster also published "In Search of America," a companion book for the six-part ABC News series.
On Dec. 31, 1999, Jennings anchored ABC's Peabody-award winning coverage of Millennium Eve, "ABC 2000." At least 175 million Americans watched the telecast, making it the biggest live global television event ever. "The day belonged to ABC News," praised The Washington Post, "… with Peter Jennings doing a nearly superhuman job of anchoring." Jennings was the only anchor to appear live for 25 consecutive hours.
Jennings led the network's coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks and America's subsequent war on terrorism. He anchored more than 60 hours that week during the network's longest continuous period of news coverage, and was widely praised for providing a reassuring voice during the time of crisis. TV Guide called him "the center of gravity," while the Washington Post wrote, "Jennings, in his shirt sleeves, did a Herculean job of coverage." The coverage earned ABC News Peabody and duPont awards.
Jennings joined ABC News on Aug. 3, 1964. He served as the anchor of "Peter Jennings with the News" from 1965 to 1967.