Gwen Ifill, Renowned Journalist and Author, Dies at 61

Corky Siemaszko
Harwood on Gwen Ifill, Obama press conference

Pioneering television news anchor Gwen Ifill died Monday after a battle with cancer, NBC News has confirmed. She was 61.

One of the nation's most prominent black journalists and a longtime newscaster at PBS who previously worked at NBC News, Ifill was in hospice care when she passed away.

More from NBC News:
Analysis: Breitbart's Steve Bannon leads the 'alt right' to the White House
If you're taking too many pills, you may need to be de-prescribed
U.S. sues Mississippi over 'discriminatory' mental health system

"Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change," Sara Just, PBS News Hour executive producer, said in a statement.

"She was a mentor to so many across the industry and her professionalism was respected across the political spectrum. She was a journalist's journalist and set an example for all around her."

Ifill was the host of PBS' Washington Week and co-host of PBS NewHour who covered seven presidential campaigns and moderated the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008. She was also the author of "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama."

"Gwen was an extraordinary and special person — one of the nation's leading lights in journalism, a gracious and inspiring colleague, and a warm and steadfast friend," Sharon Rockefeller, president and CEO of the flagship public television station WETA in Washington, said in a letter to staffers. "As she bravely battled cancer, Gwen was lifted by the well wishes, flowers and emails from so many who love and respect her."

Ifill's death sparked a bipartisan outpouring of condolences from politicians ranging from House Majority Leader Paul Ryan to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Born in New York City, Ifill was the daughter of a Methodist minister who moved with her family from church to church up and down the east coast.

After graduating from Simmons College in Boston with a journalism degree, Ifill began her career writing for the Boston Herald-American, jumped to the Baltimore Evening Sun and later the Washington Post. At the New York Times, she covered the White House.

In 2013, when she and Judy Woodruff were named the first even female co-hosts of PBS News Hour, Ifill told the New York Times she hoped that one day this won't be such a big deal.

"When I was a little girl watching programs like this — because that's the kind of nerdy family we were — I would look up and not see anyone who looked like me in any way," she said. "No women. No people of color. I''m very keen about the fact that a little girl now, watching the news, when they see me and Judy sitting side by side, it will occur to them that that's perfectly normal — that it won't seem like any big breakthrough at all."