NBC News just announced that long time anchor and correspondent John Palmer has passed following a brief illness. In his 40-year career, which ended with his retirement in 2002, he was a familiar presence in the network’s coverage of national and international affairs. He covered the administrations of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan as NBC‘s White House correspondent and in 1980 delivered the first reports of the aborted rescue of U.S. hostages in Iran. He also reported the 1986 explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle. Palmer was news anchor on The Today Show from 1982 to 1989, a period when it became the top-rated morning show. NBC called Palmer “a brilliant, brave, and tireless journalist who guided viewers 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. “

Here’s the network’s statement:

“We are deeply saddened to share the news that we have lost a valued friend and colleague. Long-time correspondent John Palmer passed away today after a brief illness.

“John was a brilliant, brave, and tireless journalist who guided viewers 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, and it built lasting bonds throughout our news division.

“John held many positions over the course of his long career with NBC News, but his most treasured role was that of husband and father. Our love and support are with Nancy, Molly and Lee, Carter, Hope, and the entire Palmer family.”