Tim Russert, host of Meet the Press and Washington bureau chief of NBC, died of coronary artery disease at age 58, NBC confirmed.
“It is my sad duty to report this afternoon that my friend and colleague Tim Russert … collapsed and died while at work in the NBC news bureau in Washington, D.C.,” Tom Brokaw said on an NBC bulletin Friday. “This news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice.”
Brokaw said Russert and his wife, Vanity Fair journalist Maureen Orth, and their son Luke, had been on vacation in Italy when Russert returned to Washington for his show Sunday. The family was also celebrating Luke’s graduation from Boston College earlier this spring.
Reacting to the news, President Bush said in a statement, “Laura and I are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Tim Russert. Those of us who knew and worked with TIm, his many friends, and the millions of Americans who loyally followed his career on the air will all miss him.”
On a personal note, the President said, “He was as gregarious off the set as he was prepared on it.”
Russert’s fellow journalist, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who is currently in Africa, told PEOPLE in a statement: “Tim Russert was a remarkable journalist and an extraordinarily decent human being. He was relentless in his search for truth, and his death is a terrible loss. My heart goes out to his family and friends.”
Russert had served as host of Meet the Press since 1991, according to MSNBC. The program itself has been on the air for 60 years, making it the longest running on TV.
In 2005, Russert won an Emmy for covering the funeral of President Ronald Reagan.
Born to a blue-collar family in Buffalo, N.Y., on May 7, 1950, Russert graduated from John Carroll University and the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. He was a member of the bar in New York and the District of Columbia, and before beginning his TV journalism career was counselor in the New York governor’s office (in 1983 and 1984, the same year he joined NBC) and a special counsel in the U.S. Senate (from 1977 to 1982).
His two books, 2004’s Big Russ and Me (about his WWII veteran father) and 2006’s Wisdom of Our Fathers were both bestsellers.
He and Orth have been married since 1983.