Former Today host Jim Hartz has died at the age of 82. According to his wife, Alexandra Dickson Hartz, the newsman passed on April 17th in Fairfax County, Va, after battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Hartz was best known for hosting the NBC broadcast alongside Barbara Walters in the 1970s. He took the job at only 34 years as a replacement for the legendary journalist Frank McGee. But despite his young age, he had already built a strong career in the new industry.
During the ten years prior to his Today spot, the Oklahoma native worked for WNBC out of New York, covering local stories. During his time, he shared breaking stories about everything from Robert F. Kennedy to Watergate. Jim Hartz’s efforts helped to make WNBC’s 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. show the number one newscast in New York City.
While in NY, Hartz worked out of NBC’s national headquarters. And his talent drew respect from the network executives, which eventually led to his seat next to Walters on the Today show. According to the Washington Post, the network chose him over Tom Brokaw and Tom Snyder.
While working with Walters, Hartz covered President Richard Nixon’s resignation and the US withdrawal from Vietnam. In 1975, he even earned an Emmy nomination for his time behind the desk. But despite his popularity and success, Hartz only stayed on the show for two years.
Jim Hartz ended up leaving his post with Today in 1976, shortly after Barbara Walters resigned amid program reconfigurations.
“The show was glamorous on the outside,” he told the Tula World in 2001, per The Post. “But inside it’s one of the toughest jobs there is. It turned my life inside out.”
Former ‘Today’ Anchor Jim Hartz Reported the Moon Landing for NBC
Aside from his jobs inside the NBC headquarters, Jim Hartz also reported live from the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. And, he became the face of science and space news. From 1966 to 1976, he was one of the primary anchors for the Apollo launches and also covered the historic moon landing.
But his favorite assignment was a Today series that took him to all 50 states as the 1976 U.S. bicentennial was gearing up.
“It’s one of those things you don’t forget,” he said in 2012, per The Washington Post. “It was a chance to see the country almost like a snapshot.”
Following his Today exit, Hartz relocated to Washington and co-hosted WRC-TV’s 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news with Jim Vance. And during the end of his career, he joined PBS to host the show Over Easy alongside Broadway star Mary Martin. And he also chaired the network’s science and technology series called Innovation.
Jim Hartz is survived by his wife, Alexandra Dickenson, and his children, Jana, Nancy, and John Hartz.