CBS icon Bob Schieffer retires

Bob Schieffer reflects on 58-year career

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - David Letterman isn't the only big name retiring from CBS. Veteran newsman Bob Schieffer is stepping down in two weeks after 46 years with the network.

While not as iconic a figure as Walter Cronkite, Schieffer is well-known and well-admired.

He has covered it all for CBS News over five decades of work. But as he told me when I traveled to Washington, DC, his career all started with one thing-- a lucky phone call.

For 24 years, Schieffer has anchored the Face the Nation show. Every Sunday morning at CBS Washington, it goes like this -- Schieffer and executive producer Mary Hager talk over the content and fine tune what the broadcast should accomplish.

They also spend time watching the competing Sunday shows to make sure they're not missing any scrap of pertinent information.

"We'll just ask him if he's been cooperative," Schieffer asks his producer, "Well, has he?"

That in a nutshell is Bob Schieffer. For 58 years as a reporter, he's been demanding answers.

He's naturally inquisitive and needs to satisfy what he doesn't know.

"Oh yeah, I do. And that's what I love about this job."

He says it's the only job he ever wanted.

And it all started in November of 1963. While working at the Fort Worth newspaper, Schieffer got the scoop of a lifetime -- by sheer luck.

"I'm there on the city desk the day Kennedy was shot, it was total bedlam. The phone rings and I just happen to be the one that answered it and a woman said, 'Is there anyone there who can take me to Dallas?' and I said, 'Lady, we're not running a taxi here and besides the president's been shot.' 'Yes,' she said, 'I've heard it on the radio I think my son's the one they've arrested.' It was Lee Harvey Oswald's mother."

That moment, while giving Schieffer a huge break, also established a habit he can't shake.

"As a result of that I can never let a telephone ring. My wife gets so mad at me, when the telephone rings at home, first ring, I pick it up. When it rings here in the office, I generally pick it up before my assistant does."

Even more amazing is the story of how Schieffer got hired at CBS. In 1969 he just wanted to talk to someone, anyone, about a job.

"One day, I just came over to this building, to CBS, without an appointment."

"First person I saw I said I'm here to see Bill Small about a job and the woman said, 'Oh yes, Bob, come right in.' And I was ushered into his office, the bureau chief's office and was subsequently hired and found out later, they thought I was somebody else."

As congenial as Schieffer seems, he's also become, over time, a trusted face and voice -- one who many viewers will miss after he relinquishes his role at Face the Nation.

So how does he view his broadcast journalism legacy?

"I can't think of any way I could have spent my life that I would have had more fun. I've just had a great life, if it ended tomorrow, I wouldn't feel shortchanged. I got more out of it that I ever thought I would and I'm just grateful for that."

For the inquisitive reporter who's spent his life asking questions of others, the "what's next?" may be the toughest question he'll ever have to answer.

He tells me he's going to spent the next three months deciding what he and his wife will do in retirement.

Schieffer's last broadcast is Sunday, May 31st.

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