Pioneering CBS News correspondent George Herman, who was the longest-serving host of the Sunday morning public affairs show “Face the Nation,” died Tuesday at age 85, the network said.
Herman, whose early overseas reporting provided CBS News with its first sound and film segments from abroad, died of heart failure after a long illness, the network said.
Herman’s 43-year career stretched from the dawn of TV with coverage of Harry Truman’s presidential campaign in 1948 through the Kennedy assassination and Watergate burglary to the computer age and Ronald Reagan’s administration.
But he was perhaps best known to viewers as moderator of CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” whose 15-year tenure as host remains the longest in the 50-year history of the Sunday interview program. Reagan called to congratulate him after Herman’s final appearance on the show in 1983.
Bob Schieffer, the current “Face the Nation” host, called Herman “the epitome of what a CBS News correspondent should be — smart, thoughtful, fair and courageous.”
Joining CBS News in 1944 as a radio news writer, Herman first appeared on TV analyzing Truman’s caucus tallies with pencil and paper at the 1948 Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, the first such event to be broadcast on the then-infant medium.
The following year, he ventured to the Far East as a freelancer with a 16mm camera and an audio recording machine, and operating as his own cameraman provided CBS News with its first overseas sound and film reports for television.
Those reports included sound and footage of Vietnamese attacks on French forces in Hanoi, border raids by communist North Korea and jungle warfare in what was then the British territory of Malaya.
His efforts landed him a job as a CBS News correspondent in 1950, and at the outbreak of the Korean War he accompanied U.N. troops into combat at Inchon. He was soon named Far East bureau chief for CBS and covered the Korean conflict for more than three years, until fighting ceased in 1953.
Returning to the United States later that year, he became a White House correspondent, covering the first three years of Dwight Eisenhower’s administration, and returned to that post in 1960 after John F. Kennedy was elected.
Three years later, he stood in front of the White House for 20 hours, much of it in the rain, as part of the CBS News team reporting on the aftermath of Kennedy’s assassination.
Herman later clinched a scoop in one of the biggest political stories of the following decade, becoming the first reporter to broadcast a story about the 1972 break-in at the Democratic Committee headquarters at the Watergate office and and apartment complex in Washington.
After leaving “Face the Nation,” Herman continued to appear on the CBS “Sunday Morning” program and “Newsbreak” segments, until finally retiring in January of 1987.