Washington, DC --
On Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, members of “The President’s Own” supported the memorial service of former Marine Jim Lehrer at the National United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. Lehrer, co-founder and longtime anchor of the PBS NewsHour and friend of the band died on Jan. 23 at the age of 85.
The service provided an opportunity for hundreds to gather to celebrate the life of Mr. Lehrer and to offer comfort to his family. A string quartet provided a musical prelude which included Johann Sebastian Bach’s Aria “When You Are Near,” Edward Elgar’s “Nimrod,” John Williams’ “Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan, and Antonín Dvořák’s “Goin’ Home,” based on the Largo from Symphony No. 9 “From the New World.”
Close friends and family members provided remarks and readings throughout the service. According to daughter Amanda Staples Lehrer Nash, Jim had a merry spirit, was quick to delight, and could express emotion and plainly tell his family and friends how much he loved them. He was described as “merry” and a “quintessentially nice guy,” and someone who had integrity and showed true friendship and deep unquestionable love. His grandson James described his “granddaddy” who tried to teach him how to march with Marine Corps cadence as a seven-year old little boy.
Mr. Lehrer’s background as a Marine was mentioned many times throughout the service. “He always thought of himself largely as a Marine,” said American historian Michael Beschloss. John O’Brien, Lehrer’s son-in-law, provided remarks on behalf of the family when he said, “We’d like to extend a very special thank you to the Marine Corps for their participation today. Anyone here who knew Jim knows how proud he was to have been a Marine. The honor that these men and women are bestowing on him today would have meant the world to Jim. We want you to know how we appreciate both your service to our country but also your kindness and thoughtfulness to our family. Semper Fi.”
Baritone vocalist Master Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Bennear and the string quartet performed Major Ryan Nowlin’s arrangement of “Amazing Grace.” Bennear also sang The Marines’ Hymn and Master Gunnery Sgt. Christian Ferrari sounded “Taps,” following military honors. The string quartet also provided the postlude which included Nick Glennie-Smith and Randall Wallace’s “The Mansions of the Lord” from We Were Soldiers, and Battle Hymn of the Republic, a selection Mr. Lehrer loved according to his family.
“Jim Lehrer was universally respected and a legend in broadcast journalism,” said violinist Master Gunnery Sergeant Peter Wilson. “This was clearly evident as we in the quartet witnessed so many iconic news anchors from countless networks arriving in the church to celebrate his life.”
He continued: “Mr. Lehrer was also deeply proud of being a Marine veteran, and this made it especially meaningful that we could be there to honor the legacy of this great man. When I spoke to his daughter in the days prior to the memorial service discussing musical selections, she was so grateful the Marine string quartet and baritone vocalist were participating because, as she was eager to point out, her father was a ‘huge fan’ of the Marine Band.”
View the Memorial Service
On Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, Jim Lehrer participated in the Marine Band’s concert titled “Time Capsule 1945: The 70th Anniversary of the End of World War II” at the Music Center at Strathmore, North Bethesda, Md. He narrated Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait and read a letter from 1st Lt. Leonard Smith Isacks Jr., USMC, Dec. 17, 1944, while the band performed Michael Kamen’s “Band of Brothers.”
Band of Brothers