A closer look at ‘Iron Pants’ Lester Holt, who’s replacing Brian Williams at NBC News


NBC announced Thursday that Lester Holt will permanently replace Brian Williams as anchor of “NBC Nightly News.”

Though Holt, 56, landed the job in part because of Williams’ missteps, he will make history by becoming the first African American solo anchor of an evening news program on a broadcast network.

Holt has been filling in for Williams since February, when the top-rated anchor was suspended without pay for embellishing accounts of his involvement in a 2003 helicopter crash in Iraq.


Full Coverage: Brian Williams

“Today” co-host Savannah Guthrie is anchoring the broadcast this week while Holt is on vacation.

Holt, who grew up near Sacramento, spent 14 years as the anchor of the evening news at WBBM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Chicago. He was appointed to the job following months of protests led by Jesse Jackson over the firing of longtime anchor Harry Porterfield, the only African American the station had on the air on a daily basis at the time.

While at WBBM-TV, he reported on breaking stories in El Salvador, Haiti, Iraq, Northern Ireland and Somalia. (For what it’s worth, he also sported a mustache.)

In 2000, he moved east to work for then-upstart cable network MSNBC, where he made his mark anchoring hours of continuous coverage of the Florida recount and the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Such feats of endurance earned him the nickname “Iron Pants” from his colleagues.

Within a few years, he was juggling duties on two networks. Holt became co-anchor of the weekend edition of “Today” in 2003, when NBC News correspondent David Bloom died unexpectedly while embedded with the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq.

In 2007, he added “NBC Nightly News” anchor to his weekend duties, succeeding John Seigenthaler. Four years later, he became anchor of newsmagazine “Dateline NBC” in 2011.

While at NBC News, he has reported from hot spots such as Haiti, Egypt and Japan. Former colleague Jay Levine praised him as a “consummate professional” in a 2013 profile in the Chicago Tribune.

Holt, like his limelight-loving predecessor, has dabbled in entertainment programming, with appearances on “30 Rock” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers.”

Journalism appears to run in the family genes. Holt’s son, Stefan, is an anchor for the morning news on NBC 5 in Chicago.

A jazz lover, Holt plays the upright and electric bass.

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