Jim Lehrer is gone. I just learned it a few minutes ago and I am saddened by the news.
He was a longtime PBS news anchor, co-hosting the “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” on the public TV network. Before he went to broadcasting the news to us, he was a print guy, a solid newspaper reporter who earned his spurs right here in Texas, where he spent much of his youth.
That brings me to a brief recounting of an encounter I had with Jim Lehrer.
I was working at the Beaumont Enterprise in the early 1990s when I spotted a gentleman standing in front of our newsroom secretary’s desk. I walked across the newsroom, turned the corner and stood at the elevator. I looked back at the secretary and whispered, “Is that Jim Lehrer?” To which the gentleman answered, “Yes. It is.” I was embarrassed to the max.
I came back around the corner, introduced myself and he returned the intro to me. We chatted right there and then headed into the newspaper library. He was looking for newspaper clippings as part of his research for a book he was writing. He attended French High School in Beaumont and spoke of his Golden Triangle connection.
We had a wonderful and fruitful visit for seemingly forever in the library.
Then he left. I felt as if I made a new friend. I don’t know how he felt about me. It would be my hope that he got as much out of our visit as I did. I never continued that relationship.
A year later, he came back to Beaumont to offer the keynote speech to the Press Club of Southeast Texas. We met again in the buffet line at lunch. I said “hello,” and — as God is my witness — he remembered our meeting the previous year.
Was I a bit star struck? More than likely. It is my story and I am sticking to it.
R.I.P., Jim Lehrer.