The James C. Lehrer Lecture

The James C. Lehrer Lecture

The Miller Center's ongoing tribute to the legendary journalist and former Governing Council member

Jim Lehrer at the Miller Center
Jim Lehrer at the Miller Center in 2011

Jim Lehrer, known to millions of Americans as the former co-host of the PBS NewsHour and the moderator of dozens of presidential and vice-presidential debates, died in January 2020.

Lehrer had a deep interest in history and politics and found a natural home at the Miller Center, where he was an important presence, serving as a member of the Governing Council from 2016 until his death.

In 2021, the Miller Center established an endowed fund to honor his legacy: The James C. Lehrer Lecture.

As the moderator of more U.S. presidential debates than any other journalist, he recognized the necessity of a free and responsible press in creating an informed citizenry. Lehrer also set the standard for civil discourse.

The inaugural Lehrer Lecture in May 2022 reflected these commitments to democracy and featured PBS NewsHour's anchor Judy Woodruff discussing journalistic integrity in a time of crisis.

“With all of Jim Lehrer’s notable accomplishments—groundbreaking journalist, legendary presidential debate moderator—one of his greatest was his genuine kindness,” said Miller Center Director William Antholis. “Jim had a unique perspective on the presidency, as told to the Miller Center through an extensive oral history he did with us. Few people knew and understood what we do as well as Jim did.”

Dubbed the “Dean of Moderators,” Lehrer was involved in the Debating Our Destiny documentaries in 2000 and 2008, which featured exclusive interviews with candidates for president and vice president dating back to 1976. Lehrer also served on the board of the Commission on Presidential Debates.

He began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter at the Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Times-Herald, covering among other major stories the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He served as a Marine infantry officer in the 1950s.

Jim Lehrer and the presidents he covered

In 2015, Jim Lehrer and his wife, Kate, sat down with the Miller Center's Bill Antholis (director and CEO) and Barbara Perry (director of Presidential Studies) for an extensive discussion of his history covering the presidency. Those who knew Jim won't be surprised to find that the stories are funny, moving, insightful, and entertaining.


Jim Lehrer moderates the Obama-Romney debate in 2012