I had a chance to spend some time with Tim Russert a few years ago; he was in St. Louis to speak to a KMOX function. I had the honor to serve as a co-emcee of that event and talk to Tim before we went on stage.
In person, he was just like he was on the air ... easy going ... easy to approach .. with a contagious smile.
With his credentials, he could have been filled with ego, aloof ... but before all of his journalistic achievements ... he was just Tim .. an Irish Catholic from Buffalo, New York ... the son of Big Russ.
That was the man I talked to that day, and the same man you would see on the air everday.
Still, Tim Russert had a deep resume. After law school he was admitted to the bar in New York and the District of Columbia; he served as counselor in New York Governor Cuomo's office and at one time was Chief of Staff to Democratic Senator Moynihan.
In 1984, he went to work for NBC at the Washington Bureau, and 4 years later, he was Chief of the bureau.
For many, he gained fame when he went on NBC during election coverage and shunned all the electronic gizmos for showing how the battle was going .. choosing instead to write on a white marker board. It was a prop, but it was one that reflected his belief ... that you make it simple for everyone to understand.
Like many of you, I read his bestselling biography BIG RUSS AND ME. It was a book that praised his father, his relationship with his father and his simple beginnings. For me, it was not only a book .. it was a reminder to review my life.
Tim Russert will be missed ... especially by his family .. but also by the millions of us who watched him ... and those of us in this business honored to have him represent the best of what we can do.
I've already heard some call him a "legend".
From what I gather, I think Tim would say that "legend" ... is too big of a label for him. He would probably say that "legend" is reserved for broadcasting names like: Murrow, Cronkite, Collingwood, Smith, Huntley, Brinkley, Wallace, Kuralt .. and others.
Still, I think ... except for this untimely death, Tim Russert would have become one of those legends.