Former 'Today' Co-Host Jim Hartz Dies at 82

Hartz served as Barbara Walters' on-air partner in the 1970s after years as a correspondent, and anchor

jim hartz barbara walters

Jim Hartz, the former NBC News correspondent and anchor who co-hosted Today alongside Barbara Walters in the 1970s, died earlier this month. He was 82.

The New York Times and Washington Post reported Hartz's April 17 death, describing the cause as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to his wife, Alexandra.

She said he had elected to be removed from the ventilator that was keeping him alive, per the Times.

Known for his laid-back style and cheerful, warm demeanor while on air, Hartz had already built a loyal base of viewers when at 34 he succeeded Frank McGee at the Today desk in 1974.

By then, he had already spent more than a decade reporting at New York City flagship station WNBC, covering everything from Robert F. Kennedy's funeral to Watergate.

Though his career at Today would only last two years, Hartz spoke to numerous iconic moments in American history in that time, including President Richard Nixon's resignation, the end of the Vietnam War and the American bicentennial.

Jim Hartz
Jim Hartz in 1976. NBC News/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
Jim Hartz and Barbara Walters
From left: Barbara Walters and Jim Hartz, then co-hosts of Today.

Hartz also covered multiple space shuttle launches, including the launch of the Apollo 15 spacecraft. In a 1974 interview with The Christian Science Monitor, he said that covering NASA events could be so overwhelming he would sometimes have no recollection of the comments he made on camera.

"I was just not prepared for that 36-story building walking right off the platform into the air," Hartz said of watching his first rocket lift off.

Born in 1940 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Hartz attended the University of Tulsa with an initial plan to study medicine but quickly realized his heart wasn't in it.

By his junior year of college, he has said, he began to pursue a newfound passion for journalism and quickly saw his career take off. In 1964, just two years after his graduation, he was hired as a host for a local Oklahoma TV station's Sun Up morning show.

Jim Hartz
Jim Hartz in 2012. Michael N. Todaro/FilmMagic

When Today came along in 1974, Hartz was selected over other standouts like Tom Brokaw and Tom Snyder, both of whom were seen as more likely to succeed at the time. But Hartz's soft-spoken nature and Oklahoma charm complemented Walters, who after 13 years on the show wasn't interested in being eclipsed by a male reporter.

"Jim, doesn't mind sharing the stage with me," Walters once said of working with Hartz, "and he isn't offended when I try to help him."

Hartz's onscreen chemistry with Walters proved a match. But when she left the show in 1976, network executives re-evaluated and the job went to Snyder.

After leaving Today, Hartz went on to host a variety of programs, including the PBS talk show Over Easy and a weekly science program titled Innovation.

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Hartz also found time for romance and family: He married high-school sweetheart Norma Tandy in 1960, with whom he had three children. After the couple divorced in 1979, Hartz married Alexandra Dickson.

He is survived by Alexandra, his daughters Jana Hartz Maher and Nancy Hartz Cole, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. His only son, John Mitchell Hartz, died at the age of 52 in 2015.

When Hartz spoke about what drew him to the Today show, he emphasized the inspiration of his mentor (and fellow Oklahoma native) McGee and the desire to be a part of something bigger than just the 11 o'clock news.

"I realized 'Today' would mean a lot. I remember talking with Frank [McGee] after he first did the show; he said he knew it would broaden his perspective and give him a chance to do new things," Hartz said shortly after his initial hiring. "I hope it will do the same for me—it's more than just a news show."

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