Don Hewitt, who helped shape TV news and in 1968 created the feature-magazine program 60 Minutes, died Wednesday at his Bridgehampton, N.Y., home, CBS announced on its Web site. He was 86 and reportedly had been battling pancreatic cancer.
Hewitt started at CBS News in 1948 and went on to oversee the network’s nightly 30-minute broadcast with Walter Cronkite starting in 1963. In 1960, he directed the decisive first televised debate between presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.
He was portrayed by the actor Philip Baker Hall in the 1999 movie The Insider, about 60 Minutes‘ exposé of the tobacco industry, and he stepped down from the top-rated Sunday night program in 2004 – involuntarily, it was said.
According to CBS, Hewitt “is survived by his wife of 30 years, Marilyn Berger; two sons, Steven and Jeffrey by his first wife, Mary Weaver, who predeceased him; a daughter Lisa Cassara, by his second wife, Frankie Hewitt, née Teague, who died in 2003; and Jilian Childers Hewitt, Frankie Hewitt’s daughter by her first husband Bob Childers, whom Hewitt adopted.”
– Stephen M. Silverman