News 12 New Jersey’s first anchor Lee Leonard dies at age 89

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Veteran journalist and News 12 New Jersey’s first main anchor Lee Leonard died Sunday at age 89.

Leonard first appeared on News 12 New Jersey when the station launched in March of 1996.

“I thought he brought an instant credibility to us. We were such a young staff at that point. I was one of the veterans and I was 32. And having somebody like Lee going out on set and doing the newscast for us – instant credibility,” says longtime News 12 anchor and reporter Walt Kane.

Leonard not only anchored the news at News 12, but he also hosted the show “Jersey’s Talking” for six years. It was a nightly interview show that featured actors, magicians and musicians.

Leonard had a long journalism career before starting at News 12. He worked at several other television stations, and even worked at CNN twice. Leonard was also the first person to appear on ESPN when the station launched in 1979.

Sixteen years later, he would help launch News 12 New Jersey.

“When I moved there, that’s what everyone talked about in the community, was this great man named Lee Leonard…he was a legend here in New Jersey. People will never forget him and neither will I,” says anchor Della Crews.

“Here was this pro, this name that people in the industry knew. People would ask us, ‘What’s it like to work with Lee Leonard?’ and here’s this guy who’s just our teacher and our mentor and our friend and our colleague and someone that we could ask questions to and look up to and have a few good laughs with too,” says News 12 executive producer Ivy Charmatz.

Leonard is survived by his wife of 37 years, actress Kelly Bishop. He also leaves behind a daughter and grandson.

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