John Palmer, 77, a veteran reporter for NBC News who covered wars and Washington during a career that spanned 40 years, died Saturday at George Washington University Hospital of pulmonary fibrosis, according to his wife, Nancy.

Palmer worked for NBC from 1962 to 1990, then returned to the network from 1994 until 2002. He became a familiar face to viewers of the "Today" show during much of the 1980s, delivering the news in a straightforward, no-nonsense manner at a time when the program often led in the ratings.

A native of Kingsport, Tenn., Palmer was a graduate of Northwestern University and held a master's degree from Columbia University.


FOR THE RECORD:
John Palmer: The obituary of longtime NBC News reporter John Palmer in the Aug. 7 LATExtra section said that he left NBC in 1990 to anchor the syndicated news program "Instant Recall," where he interviewed figures including Anwar Sadat. The Egyptian president was assassinated in 1981. —

He got his start as a reporter in Atlanta in 1960 and two years later moved up to the network.

In the 1970s, he was based in Beirut and covered the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the war in Cyprus and the civil war in Angola. He later served as a correspondent in Paris and at the White House.

In April 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. Eight U.S. servicemen died when a helicopter crashed into a C-130 transport plane at a staging area in Iran.

His reporting on the story brought him the Merriman Smith Memorial Award for excellence in presidential news coverage, making him the first broadcast journalist to receive that honor.

In 1986, Palmer anchored the first hours of NBC's coverage of the Challenger space shuttle disaster, as well as other special reports.

Palmer left the network in 1990 to anchor a syndicated news program called "Instant Recall," interviewing figures such as Carter, Presidents Ford and Reagan, Anwar Sadat, Jonas Salk and Chuck Yeager.

In 1994, he was invited back to NBC as a Washington-based national correspondent.

Times wire reports

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