Jim Hartz, who hosted the Today show with Barbara Walters in the mid-1970s, died April 17 in Fairfax County, Va. He was 82 and passed from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to his wife, Alexandra Dickson Hartz.
Hartz was in mid-career when he joined Today, deploying a low-key style that was the low-key foil to the energy put out by Walters. He was 34 and succeeded Frank McGee, who died at 58. Hartz was a reporter for WNBC covering local stories when he got the nod.
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He joined Today and covered President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation, the end of the Vietnam War, and the American Bicentennial during his two years as a part of the morning show.
Hartz was born on Feb. 3, 1940, in Tulsa, Okla., the fifth child of Rev. Marvin Dillard Hartz, an Assembly of God minister, and Helen Elvira (Potter) Hartz.
After college, he was hired as a reporter for KOTV in Tulsa and hosted “Sun Up,” the channel’s morning show. He progressed there to news director, then was tapped by NBC in New York.
He became anchor of the evening newscasts on WNBC, the network’s flagship local station. By 1974, Today came calling, and he took over the coveted slot next to Walters.
By 1976, Walters left to become ABC’s evening news coanchor, and Jane Pauley was brought aboard. Her low-key style was viewed by executives as the same as Hartz, and a determination was made to bring in Tom Brokaw for balance.
Hartz had a short stint as a “roviing host” for Today after that, but then moved on in 1976 to news anchor at WRC, the NBC affiliate in Washington. He later worked with PBS, co-hosting “Over Easy,” a celebrity talk show, alongside the actress Mary Martin, and “Innovation,” a weekly science show.
In the early 1990s, Hartz hosted “Asia Now” for PBS, a joint production with Japan’s NHK public broadcasting. Two years later, he became chairman of the Will Rogers Memorial Commission, which oversees the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Okla. and the Will Rogers Birthplace in Oologah, Oklahoma.
Survivors include his wife, Alexandra Dickson, two daughters, Jana Hartz Maher and Nancy Hartz Cole, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. A son, John Mitchell Hartz, died in 2015.
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