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Harry Reasoner

Harry Reasoner
1974 photo
Harry Reasoner, 1974
Born Harry Truman Reasoner
(1923-04-17)April 17, 1923
Dakota City, Iowa
Died August 6, 1991(1991-08-06) (aged 68)
Westport, Connecticut
Education Stanford University
University of Minnesota
Occupation Journalist
Years active 1946–1991
Spouse(s) Kathleen Carroll Reasoner (m. 1946; div. 1981) Lois Harriett Weber (m. 1988–91)
Children seven

Harry Truman Reasoner (April 17, 1923 – August 6, 1991) was an American journalist for ABC and CBS News, known for his inventive use of language as a television commentator, and as a founder of the 60 Minutes program.

Over the course of his career, Reasoner won three George Foster Peabody Award in 1967.


  • Life and career 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Journalism: CBS News 1.2
      • JFK assassination 1.2.1
    • 60 Minutes 1.3
    • To ABC and back 1.4
  • Personal life and death 2
  • References 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • External links 5

Life and career

Early life

Reasoner was born on April 17, 1923, at First Street North in Dakota City, Iowa; He and his older sister Esther were the children of Eunice (Nicholl) and Harry Ray Reasoner, who married in 1911.[1] Reasoner was taught to read by his parents before entering school, gaining a strong vocabulary from his mother.[2]

Reasoner attended West High School in Minneapolis. During his time at the school, Reasoner developed his interest for journalism. One story, authored by Reasoner, entitled "The Wrench of the Week" garnered the attention of the principal who expelled Reasoner but later returned following a plea from fellow student Chet Newby. Reasoner graduated in January 1940 having missed the Class of 1939 graduation ceremony. Before graduating, Reasoner went on to study journalism at Stanford University and the University of Minnesota.[3] He served in World War II and then resumed his journalism career with The Minneapolis Times. His novel Tell Me About Women, about a fading marriage, was written partly during his World War II service and was first published in 1946.

Journalism: CBS News

Reasoner as an employee of the United States Information Agency

After going into radio with CBS in 1948, Reasoner worked for the United States Information Agency in the Philippines. When he returned stateside, he went into television and worked at station KEYD (later KMSP) in Minneapolis. He ran for Minneapolis city council as a Republican in 1949 and garnered 381 votes (4.4 percent).[4] Reasoner later joined CBS News in New York, in 1958, where he eventually hosted a morning news program called Calendar from 1961 to 1963, on top of doing commentator and special news narration duties.

JFK assassination

Reasoner took part in covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Friday, November 22, 1963. Walter Cronkite and Charles Collingwood had been switching back and forth to report on the incident for about four hours after Cronkite initially broke the news at 1:40 P.M. EST. Reasoner took over the anchor chair after Collingwood tossed it to him at 5:49 p.m. EST, and opened with the repeat of an announcement by Frank Stanton, then president of CBS, which had already been relayed by Collingwood:

He later reported on the arrival of Kennedy's body to Washington, D.C. and provided details regarding Lee Harvey Oswald (who was, at that moment, accused only of killing Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit, but not the president until hours later). Reasoner left the desk when Cronkite returned to anchor CBS Evening News at 6:35 p.m. EST. He reappeared in another studio approximately two hours later, to narrate a special program called "John F. Kennedy — A Man of This Century", where he talked about Kennedy's career and the new President, Lyndon B. Johnson, until announcing the conclusion of CBS' coverage for that day. (Reasoner also anchored the final coverage of the next day, with a CBS News special titled "A Day to Mourn".) [5]

Reasoner's next appearance came two days later, Sunday, and as he was at the anchor desk, Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby while being moved in the Dallas City Jail. At that very moment, Roger Mudd was filing a report from Washington, describing the President's funeral arrangements.

At this point, CBS abruptly cut back to Reasoner at the newsroom anchor desk with breaking news.

At the time CBS picked up KRLD's live feed of the city jail basement, Oswald was lying on the floor and Dallas Police were apprehending Ruby. KRLD's reporter on the scene, Bob Huffaker, was heard to say "Oswald has been shot, Oswald has been shot". After the ambulance carrying Oswald sped out of the jail en route to Parkland Hospital, KRLD switched back to CBS in New York where Reasoner replayed the tape from the beginning so the viewers could see Ruby shooting Oswald. Several minutes later, he reported that the Dallas Police had released Ruby's name. (Reasoner was not at the anchor desk when Oswald was declared dead, having been replaced by Cronkite.)

60 Minutes

Reasoner and Mike Wallace on the 60 Minutes premiere, 1968.

In 1968, Reasoner teamed up with Mike Wallace to begin the 60 Minutes newsmagazine series. On 60 Minutes and elsewhere, he often worked with producer and writer Andy Rooney, who later became a well-known contributor in his own right. In a farewell interview on "60 Minutes" in 2011, Rooney said Reasoner was a great writer in his own right but was lazy, giving Rooney more opportunities to show his writing skills. Rooney and interviewer Morley Safer agreed that Reasoner enjoyed drinking and was "one of the most companionable fellows" they had ever known.

To ABC and back

Reasoner with fellow newsanchors Barbara Walters and Howard K. Smith in 1976

In 1970, Reasoner was hired away from CBS by ABC to become an anchor on the network's newly revamped nightly newscast. At the time of his hire, the network's New York-based broadcast, simply titled ABC News, was anchored by Howard K. Smith and Frank Reynolds, both former colleagues of Reasoner at CBS. Beginning in December 1970 Reasoner was moved into Reynolds' position (Reynolds thus became the network's chief Washington correspondent) and the newscast became known as ABC Evening News.[6]

Reasoner anchored the news alongside Smith until 1975, when he took the sole anchor position while Smith moved into a commentary role. The next year, however, ABC decided to pair Reasoner with a new co-anchor— this time, it was former Today Show co-host Barbara Walters, whom ABC had gone to great lengths to hire away from NBC. Walters and Reasoner did not enjoy a close relationship; Reasoner not only did not like sharing the spotlight with a co-anchor but was uncomfortable with Walters' celebrity status.[7] It was also widely believed that Reasoner disliked the idea of a woman anchoring the network news, which he denied, saying "I am trying to keep an open mind about it". In another interview, Reasoner said on the subject "I've worked in journalism for women and with women for years. For two years I did a CBS morning news program with a woman. I feel they're no worse than men are."

After two years of co-anchoring ABC Evening News with Walters, Reasoner departed the network after nearly eight years in June 1978 and returned to CBS, where he resumed his duties on 60 Minutes. Shortly after his departure ABC elected to scrap ABC Evening News altogether and reworked the newscast into World News Tonight.

Reasoner stayed with 60 Minutes until his retirement on May 19, 1991.[6]

Personal life and death

Reasoner was married twice, to Kathleen Carroll Reasoner for 35 years and then to Insurance Executive Lois Harriett Weber in 1988. He had seven children by his first marriage. Reasoner underwent two operations for lung cancer in 1985 and 1987.[8] Reasoner died three months after his retirement in 1991 from a blood clot in the brain received from a fall at his home in Westport, Connecticut. He is interred at Union Cemetery in Humboldt.


  1. ^ Daniel 2007, p. 2.
  2. ^ Daniel 2007, p. 5-8.
  3. ^ Daniel 2007, p. 17-18.
  4. ^ Minneapolis Tribune, May 5, 1949; Council Proceedings, MInnespolis, 1949, official statement of primary election results.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Severo, Richard (August 7, 1991). "Harry Reasoner, 68, Newscaster Known for His Wry Wit, Is Dead".  
  7. ^ Oppenheimer, Jerry (May 14, 1990). "A look at TV's first lady".  
  8. ^ Goodman, Mark (August 19, 1991). "Good Night, Harry".  


  • Daniel, Douglass K. (2007). Harry Reasoner: A Life in the News.  

External links

Media offices
Preceded by
Howard K. Smith and Frank Reynolds
As ABC News
ABC Evening News anchor
1970 – 1978
with Howard K. Smith 1970 – 1976
with Barbara Walters 1976 – 1978
Succeeded by
Frank Reynolds, Max Robinson, and Peter Jennings
as World News Tonight
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