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

Posted: Updated:
EDISON -

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.

  • New Jersey SlideshowsGalleriesMore>>

  • Your Oct. 16 storm photos

    Your Oct. 16 storm photos

    Storm photos Oct. 17Storm photos Oct. 17
    Storm photos Oct. 17Storm photos Oct. 17
    Heavy right and high winds swept through the tri-state area due to a large coast storm on the night of Oct. 16. Here are your photos from the storm.
    Heavy right and high winds swept through the tri-state area due to a large coast storm on the night of Oct. 16. Here are your photos from the storm.
  • Yankees in the 2019 Playoffs

    Yankees in the 2019 Playoffs

    New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia throws against the Houston Astros during the 10th inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Houston.New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia throws against the Houston Astros during the 10th inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Houston.
    New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia throws against the Houston Astros during the 10th inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Houston.New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia throws against the Houston Astros during the 10th inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Houston.
    Photos on the field of the New York Yankees in the 2019 American League Division Series vs. the Minnesota Twins.
    Photos on the field of the New York Yankees in the 2019 American League Division Series vs. the Minnesota Twins.
  • Guide: New Jersey Breweries

    Guide: New Jersey Breweries

    Looking to check out brewery this summer? There are many breweries across the state for beer-lovers to visit. Check out our list for breweries in your area. 

    Looking to check out brewery this summer? There are many breweries across the state for beer-lovers to visit. Check out our list for breweries in your area. 

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."