Long-time television political commentator Mark Shields died of kidney failure on June 18. The Marine veteran was 85.

His death was announced on Twitter by Judy Woodruff, anchor of "PBS NewsHour," where Shields had appeared on Fridays from 1987 to 2020. Woodruff said she was "heartbroken" to report the passing of Shields "who for decades wowed us with his encyclopedic knowledge of American politics, his sense of humor and mainly his big heart."

On Twitter, Washington Post Associate Editor Jonathan Capehart called Shields "a giant.

A gentleman who put our complex world into context. A believer in the promise of America and in his fellow Americans who strived to live out its promise." After Shields stepped down in 2020, Capehart was invited to fill the vacant position. "To follow in the path he blazed at PBS NewsHour is an honor," Capehart tweeted.

'He brought out the best in everyone'

David Gergen, a former presidential adviser and currently a commentator on CNN, took to Twitter to say he was "deeply saddened by the death of Shields." Gergen had often appeared together with Shields on PBS.

He said, "In our wonderful years together on the PBS Newshour, he was one of the best partners in the history of television — thoughtful, witty, always a champion of the little guy. He brought out the best in everyone he touched."

David Brooks, a conservative New York Times columnist who had appeared with Shields on PBS for 19 years, called his former colleague "one of the finest and beloved men I’ve ever known" on Twitter.

The post contained a link to a profile of Shields which Brooks had written in December 2020 at the conclusion of their work together.

In that profile, Brooks quoted Shields saying: "The two hallmarks of American politics are optimism and pragmatism." Like U.S. President Joe Biden, Shields had grown up to think of politics as a dignified vocation, Brooks said.

The conservative commentator recalled that there had been frequent disagreements between himself and Shields "but never a second of acrimony."

'The pundit next door'

Writing in The New York Times, Clyde Haberman said Shields had been a “piercing analyst of America’s virtues and failings.” After serving two years in the Marines, Shields, “a self-described New Deal liberal,” worked as an aide to U.S. Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin before working in the campaigns of several Democratic Party candidates in the 1970s, Haberman recalled.

Shields had been known for "his bluntly liberal views and sharply honed wit," Haberman said. He noted that a 1993 report in his paper had described Shields as someone "who likes to argue about current events at the barbershop — the pundit next door." During his 1987-2020 tenure at "PBS Newshour," Shields had presented opposing liberal views to a number of conservative commentators, including Gergen and Brooks, Haberman said.

Bygone era of civility

Writing in Variety, Cynthia Littleton noted that Shields had been known for "his tact and wit" which "predated the shouting-heads era of cable news" associated with Fox News and MSNBC. For 17 years, Shields had also offered commentary on "Capital Gang" at CNN, the New York Post reported.

The paper said that he had also been writing a column for the Washington Post since 1979.

NPR noted that Schields had been a native of Weymouth, Massachusetts, and a graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Variety said the cause of his death had been kidney failure.