PBS newscaster Gwen Ifill, pioneer for women and African-Americans in journalism, has died at 61 after battling endometrial cancer.

Ifill kept her diagnosis private while covering this year’s presidential election.

The president reflected on Ifill, a journalist he called a friend, on Monday.

“I always appreciated Gwen’s reporting, even when I was at the receiving end of one of her tough and thorough interviews,” President Obama said.

Her well-respected journalism made her a familiar face on TV. Fellow journalists mourned her death, taking to Twitter to give condolences.

“Face The Nation” host John Dickerson tweeted “Howlingly sad. Dear sweet Gwen is gone. Rip” Lester Holt tweeted “Very sad to learn we have lost Gwen Ifill. Gwen represented the best of broadcast journalism. Our hearts are broken.”

Ifill moderated two vice presidential debates during her career as well as a democratic candidates debate in February. First in 2004 with Cheney vs. Edwards then again four years later with Biden vs. Palin.

Nervous at first Ifill soon realized she was the one asking all the questions.

“Seriously it’s really the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Ifill said. “The best part for both was when Queen Latifah played me on ‘Saturday Night Live’.”

As a pioneer for women and African Americans in journalism she broke racial and gender barriers across the country.

During her college internship at the Boston Herald in the ’70’s, Ifill told The Washington Post, “They didn’t know what a college-educated black woman was and they didn’t know how to treat me.”

Ifill was half of the first all-female anchor team of the nightly network program “PBS NewsHour” with Judy Woodruff where she was also managing editor.

She became the first African American woman to host a political talk show in 1999 as moderator of PBS’s “Washington Week in Review.”

Ifill’s career spanned The Washington Post, The New York Times and NBC News.

She took leaves of absence this year, returning at one point for another interview with the president.

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