Lester Holt is currently the anchor of NBC Nightly News. He’s held that position since June of 2015 when he filled the spot left vacant by Brian William’s demotion. Since 2011 he has also anchored the weekly television news magazine show Dateline NBC.
Holt made history by becoming the African American to solo anchor a major network nightly newscast. His other claim to fame is moderating the 2016 presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
He was born in San Francisco in 1959, the youngest child of four. His father’s name was Lester Don Holt Sr and his mother was June. He’s a second-generation American. Holt’s grandparents were born and raised in Jamaica.
Holt grew up in Sacramento and went to Cordova High School. After graduating in 77, he attended college at California State University where he studied government – although he dropped out before earning his degree. Instead of finishing up his education, he got a part-time job as a radio DJ for a local country music radio station.
His first full-time job was reporting the news at the same station. It wasn’t until 1981 that he made the jump from radio to TV landing a job as a reporter for the local CBS affiliate in New York City.
For the last 40 years, he has worked as a reporter and anchor for CBS first then NBC. Today, he is considered one of the greatest anchors of our generation following in the footsteps of Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, and Peter Jennings.
This video is going to take a closer look at Holt’s captivating life story and his accomplished career. Apparently he’s a man of many names. Let’s first take a look at some of Holt’s monikers. And make sure you keep watching to find out what some of his surprising hidden talents are – and he’s got quite a few.
His Colleague’s Used To Call Him ‘Iron Pants’
Back when the fledgling MSNBC was first getting its bearings and Holt arrived on the scene, he would spend up to 9 consecutive hours relaying reports related to the 2000 election. His coverage kept him on the air for a huge chunk of the day.
Holt had the uncanny ability to stay focused and alert throughout his arduously long shifts. Some of his co-workers began to take notice of his impressive endurance and consistency and decided to give him a little nickname.
Since he was able to sit in a chair for long durations at a time without even taking a bathroom break, they decided to call him ‘iron pants’.
It was this strong work ethic and attention to detail that helped land him the opportunity to work on Dateline NBC and the Today Show. Ultimately his iron pants reputation led to his greatest promotion to date, that being the permanent anchor on NBC Nightly News.
He Was Also Known As Lightning Bolt Holt
It was after getting his first job in broadcasting with the Country music station KRAK that he earned his first nickname. Folks at the station started calling him Lightning Bolt Holt because he was consistently one of the first people to arrive on the scene of an accident or crime. His station issued Jeep Grand Cherokee was equipped with a police scanner radio and Holt kept it on constantly to catch the next big scoop.
He was thoroughly dedicated to his work. Reporting the news became his primary passion. His commitment to his education began to wane when he saw that he had a clear path to success in the field he was already working in. That’s why he never finished earning his college degree. To him, working at the station was the on-the-job internship-like education that he needed to start climbing the broadcasting ladder.
He Was Kicked Out Of An Alaskan Radio Station
Holt was an Army brat. His father was an Air Force technician and as such, his family moved around a lot in his younger years. When his family was living in Anchorage, Alaska while his dad was stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base, he got one of his first peeks into the world of broadcasting.
His brother Mike Swanigan was an employee at a local radio station and he decided that he wanted to be the cool big bro by sneaking his younger sibling into the KTVA offices. Everyone that worked at the station failed to find anything charming about a child being around and Holt was subsequently kicked out multiple times.
Holt couldn’t stay away. He knew at that young age that he wanted to grow up to work in Broadcasting. It absolutely fascinated him but he probably had no idea how far that passion would take him in life.
He Took High School Announcements Super Seriously
When Lester was a teen, he already knew that he wanted to pursue his passion for Broadcasting and Journalism but it was difficult to figure out what the best route would be to get to where he wanted to be career-wise. He decided not to sweat it though. As long as he put all of his heart and soul into whatever projects, tasks, and goals he set out to do then good things would likely come of it.
While he was still at Cordova High School he earned the opportunity to deliver the daily announcements over the school’s PA system. His mom recalls that he took the job extremely seriously. Even though no one outside of his high school would ever hear those announcements, he treated them like they were being broadcast across the nation. He even took a page from Edward Murrow’s famous ‘good night and good luck’ sign-off and came up with one of his own parting line “and now you’re up to date”.
He Covered His First Story When He Was 16
You got to give it to him. Lester Holt has always been driven. He was so focused on getting into journalism that he managed to get himself an internship with a local Sacramento TV station while he was still in high school.
It was while working at KCRA that he slowly worked his way into the newsroom. At first, they just let him do some voiceovers for commercials and such but after he proved himself a bit to the brass, he was eventually able to convince them to let him shoot his own news segment. He was only 16 when he covered his first story about the lack of diversity in the Sacramento metro area police department.
He Took His Wife On A Date To A Wild Fire
Normally when sparks fly and a fire is ignited in the context of a romantic situation it means that two people really hit it off and are especially into each other.
For Holt and his then future wife, the fire metaphor was less symbolic. In Fact, he took Carol Hagen on their first date to a forest fire in Napa Valley.
It wasn’t his intention. Originally he had a pretty standard evening lined up, but while they were on their way to the restaurant for a night of good food and libations, Holt’s scanner radio went off – and for Lester, when duty calls there’s no chance that he’s not going to step up to the plate.
Instead of dropping Hagen off back at her house, he asked her if she wanted to come along. The two were wed in 1982 and have been happily married ever since. They ended up having two sons together, Stefan and Cameron.
Wonder how many times those kids have heard their parent’s forest fire first date story?
He Worked As A Local News Anchor For 14 Years
Sometimes you got to put in your time and pay your dues before you can start moving up the ranks of any job. In broadcasting, that motif is especially true.
In 1986, Lester signed on with WBBM-TV in Chicago which was the area CBS affiliate. He delivered the nightly news with that channel following in the footsteps of Harry Porterfield who was at the time the only African American anchor to be on the air on a daily basis.
When Porterfield was fired, the Reverend Jesse Jackson publicly protested his dismissal.
Lester didn’t let the black community – nor any community as a matter of fact down. He enjoyed a 14-year tenure with the station before finally making the jump to national television when he was hired at MSNBC in 2000.
He’s Not A Fan Of Sitting Down
Lester is pretty adamant when talking to young aspiring journalists and broadcasting students that being an anchor isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, it pays relatively well and it certainly gets your name out there but he refers to it as being put into golden handcuffs.
It’s definitely a step above being a reporter in terms of salary but it ties you to the studio all the time. You never get to leave the building and for the most part, you have to sit in a chair all day and stare at a camera.
Holt recalls that the most thrilling era of his career was when he was out in the field as an investigative or on-the-scene reporter. Because at least then he got to explore the world and talk to people and not just sit on a sound stage all day reading a teleprompter.
He Loves To Annoy His Colleagues With His Bass Guitar
Holt’s been interested in music since he was a kid. He picked up the bass guitar and started playing jazz music when he was a teenager in high school. Playing music is his favorite means of alleviating stress and clearing his mind but he admits that sometimes he gets a little carried away.
When he cranks his amp up to 11 and really rocks out, sometimes his co-workers aren’t exactly thrilled about what they hear. That’s not to say that he isn’t a talented musician. After all, he has gotten the opportunity to play with funky, soulful R&B outfit Earth, Wind and Fire.
In addition to playing the bass guitar, Holt also plays the upright bass.
He Can Identify Planes Just By Their Sound
When his father was in the Air Force, Holt became very familiar with all kinds of different planes. That first-hand knowledge has led to him developing a very unique talent. He can sit and listening carefully to the sound of a plane and identify what kind it is with a remarkable degree of accuracy. He can even identify what kind of engine the heavier-than-air craft is equipped with. If that’s not one of the nerdiest talents that we’ve ever heard of then we don’t know what is.
At the end of the day, Lester Holt is just a regular Joe. He’s tried his best to not let his success get to his head. He’s always tried to be approachable, the kind of guy that you would want to have a beer with and chat about current events. He did just that back in 2007 when a bunch of tech salespeople invited him to have a drink when he was in a Hotel lobby.
How could he say no to that?
Would you like to sit down and have a beer with Lester Holt is there another news anchor that you would prefer to meet? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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Oh yeah, and as Walter Cronkite would say…. And that’s the way it is.