Philip Scheffler, whose five-decade career included a long stint as lieutenant to “60 Minutes” creator Don Hewitt, died at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan on Thursday. He was 85.
Beginning in 1980, when he was named senior producer of the news magazine, Scheffler was involved in producing every “60 Minutes” report until he retired in 2003. (He also served as executive editor for several years.)
Before being named to this top-level producing post, Scheffler produced “60 Minutes” segments for Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Harry Reasoner and Dan Rather for nine years. Scheffler was the even-tempered fellow who had to play diplomat among the big egos in the screening room.
Born in New York, Scheffler was hired by Hewitt in 1951 as a copy boy on CBS’ “Douglas Edwards With the News,” the first network TV news program, which Hewitt produced and directed. In 1951 Scheffler also became the news show’s first street reporter. His firsts assignment: Ask people whether they thought Gen. Eisenhower should enter politics and run for the Republican nomination for president.
Scheffler served for two years in the Army after being drafted in 1953. He made use of this period, helping to write and produce a CBS series, aired weekly, in which a Korean War recruit was followed through basic training. After his discharge Scheffler returned to CBS and resumed work as reporter, writer and producer for the CBS News programs through the 1950s.
Scheffler served as associate producer and on-air reporter for the news program “Eyewitness” from 1960-63, then served briefly as an associate producer on “The CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite,” where he was part of the team covering the Kennedy assassination.
As part of the documentary unit, which he joined in 1964, Scheffler produced more than 100 documentary and other broadcasts.
In 1981 the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism presented him with the Alumni Award for distinguished contributions to journalism. He also taught there for a time.
Scheffler is survived by his wife, Linda Weingarten Scheffler; a daughter; and a son.