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Bill Monroe; hosted ‘Meet the Press’ nine years

In 1985, Mr. Monroe was moderator when Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford discussed morality in New Orleans, the first time they shared a stage outside their home states as former presidents. In 1985, Mr. Monroe was moderator when Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford discussed morality in New Orleans, the first time they shared a stage outside their home states as former presidents. (Andrew J. Choon/Associated Press)
By Jessica Gresko
Associated Press / February 18, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Bill Monroe, who hosted the long-running Washington political television show “Meet the Press’’ for nearly a decade, died yesterday at a Washington-area nursing home.

Mr. Monroe, 90, was the NBC show’s fourth moderator, from 1975 to 1984, and interviewed prominent political figures ranging from President Jimmy Carter to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Tim Russert, the best-known host of “Meet the Press,’’ assumed the host’s chair in 1991 after a series of short stints by others following Mr. Monroe’s departure.

Mr. Monroe’s daughter, Lee, said her father had taken a fall in December that put him in a nursing home and had not been well since.

Mr. Monroe was born in New Orleans and graduated from Tulane University. He served in World War II and later began his career in television journalism at the New Orleans NBC affiliate, WDSU.

In 1961 he moved to Washington, where he became NBC’s bureau chief. He worked on the “Today Show,’’ winning the Peabody Award in 1972, and succeeded Lawrence Spivak as host of “Meet the Press’’ in 1975.

On his first day as the show’s permanent moderator he interviewed Governor George Wallace of Alabama, the staunch segregationist who was at the time running for president. “Have you personally changed your views about segregation?’’ he asked.

When Wallace did not respond directly, Mr. Monroe cut him off and repeated the question. Wallace began to stumble through his next response, and Mr. Monroe asked a third time: “Have your views changed?’’

Wallace finally said that race relations were better in Alabama than other parts of the country.

Marvin Kalb, who with Roger Mudd cohosted “Meet the Press’’ after Mr. Monroe left, called him a consummate interviewer and a gracious host. “I think fairness was the word that would best describe him,’’ Kalb said.