Longtime NBC News correspondent and anchor John Palmer has died at the age of 77 after a “short, sudden illness”, the network reported tonight.

Calling Palmer a “dear colleague and friend”, NBC Nightly News weekend anchor Lester Holt described a journalist “many of you welcomed into your living rooms for a good many years…’Been there, done that’ only begins to describe John’s career. There was no one better in the trenches, and as a colleague, no one more liked.”

A Tennessee native, Palmer long served as a foreign correspondent for NBC News before moving over to the White House beat in 1979.  He went on to cover five presidents.  In 1982 he joined the Today show, where for seven years he was news anchor alongside hosts Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumbel.

The veteran newsman left NBC News in 1990, rejoining the division four years later. In a 2008 interview, Palmer shared with TVNewser that it was Tim Russert who gave him that second chance.

Palmer met his wife Nancy at NBC News, and currently two of his daughters are division journalists.  One of them, Today producer Molly Palmer Cowan, married CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan last year. At the time of their engagement, a delighted Palmer told TVNewser that he and Nancy were “not losing a daughter, just adding another journalist to the family, and a fine one he is!”

Update: The AP is reporting the cause of death as pulmonary fibrosis.

Full statement and bio from NBC News, after the jump… Read more