Veteran PBS NewsHour political commentator Mark Shields died of kidney failure on Saturday morning at his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a PBS spokesperson confirmed. He was 85.
“I am heartbroken to share this..the @NewsHour’s beloved long-time Friday night analyst Mark Shields, who for decades wowed us with his encyclopedic knowledge of American politics, his sense of humor and mainly his big heart, has passed away at 85, with his wife Anne at his side,” wrote former colleague and PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff on Twitter.
Prior to retiring in 2020, the syndicated columnist for the Shields & Brook discussion segment worked at the station for more than three decades. He provided political analysis during moments of national importance, such as the Persian Gulf War, the Iran-Contra affair, 9/11 and the start of the War on Terror. His tenure had spanned six presidencies.
“For 33 years, thanks to a large risk taken by Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil in 1987, I’ve had the best job in Washington journalism,” Shields said at the time. “I am grateful to my PBS colleagues, valued friends, beginning with David Gergen through the last joyful 20 years with David Brooks. To Judy Woodruff — my dear friend since the 1976 Ford-Carter campaign — and to all our dedicated professionals at the PBS NewsHour, this has been, in addition to great fun, the most rewarding professional experience of my, admittedly checkered, career. Finally to the loyal viewers of the NewsHour who have regularly informed, corrected, and encouraged me, thank you.”
Shields began his career in Washington in 1965 as a legislative assistant and speechwriter for Wisconsin-hailing Senator William Proxmire. Three years later, he joined Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Over 11 years, he served in several leadership roles in three other presidential campaigns in more than 36 states.
In 1979, Shields became an editorial writer at The Washington Post and began his column, which is currently nationally distributed by Creators Syndicate. A staple in American political writing, he attended 23 national party conventions and had worked as part of or covered the last 14 presidential elections.
According to his PBS biography, The Wall Street Journal called him “the wittiest political analyst around” and “frequently the most trenchant, fair-minded, and thoughtful.” The Washington Post named Shields “a walking almanac of American politics.” Shields insights are described as “first-hand and up-to-the minute, drawn from four decades of knowing, covering and savoring the country and its politics.”
“Mark radiates a generosity of spirit that improves all who come within his light,” Brooks, now a New York Times columnist, wrote in an op-ed around Shields retiring, adding “After decades in journalism, Mark still puts the character lens before the partisan lens.”
Shields was a native of Weymouth, Massachusetts, and his alma mater was the University of Notre Dame. After graduation, Shield served in the United States Marine Corps, after which he worked for several local and presidential races before embarking on his PBS career in 1987. He was also a columnist for several news outlets, including CNN and ABC.
He is survived by his wife Anne Hudson Shields, daughter Amy Shields Doyle, son-in-law Christo Doyle and grandchildren, Jack and Frances Doyle.