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Wild About Harry

Steve Kroft, Leslie Stahl on Don Hewitt, day after he died
CBS
Harry Smith's new job as one of four co-anchors of The Early Show makes him the only man on a set dominated by women.

But the women who have filled his life and career say he is well-prepared for the job.

Raised in suburban Chicago, Smith is the youngest of several siblings. "His older brothers and sisters feel like he got spoiled rotten. But I don't think so," says his mom, Beatrice Smith.

Smith first left home to attend Iowa's Central College where he excelled in both theater and football. But it was broadcasting he pursued after graduation. He started by spinning jazz records late nights on Cincinnati's
WLW radio station. An eight-year career in radio followed at various stations with a variety of formats. Smith's segue to television happened in 1980 on Denver's PBS station.

"I would say Harry was a quick study,"says Reynelda Muse, his first co-host on a show called Harry & Muse. "I was a reporter with 12 years experience. He was a radio DJ who brought different strength to the show,"

His inquisitiveness helped Smith land his first news job on Denver's WNGH, which is where romance flourished with his new co-host, Andrea Joyce.

"Every time he opened his mouth, I thought it was the greatest thing I ever heard and so funny," she said. "And I was kind of giddy like a schoolgirl. And he would say something."

So then when CBS News called, the couple packed up and moved to Dallas.

"He loved being a correspondent for the evening news. Dan Rather was his hero," Joyce says. "It was his dream. The night before we got married, his producer in Dallas calls my mother's house and says, 'Harry, great news, we're going to Afghanistan.' Next week. This is like a minute after our four-day honeymoon, right? And he gets off the phone and he says,'We're going to Afghanistan!' And I said, and 'This is good?'"

And that was just the beginning. Smith wound up hitting the road so often his travels became a regular Evening News feature.

"I think that one of the reasons why we have such a great relationship is that we're not always together every minute of the day. I travel for work. He travels for work," says Andrea.

Which has really worked out over the years when it came to raising their sons Jake and Grady.

"I could never have the career I had if Harry hadn't been around to make sure the kids were eating broccoli or practicing their piano when I was off covering a football game or doing the Olympics or whatever. I could have never done it," she adds.

Within a few years, the Smiths moved to New York City when Harry was asked to co-host a new version of the CBS News program "CBS This Morning."

Harry began hosting mornings on CBS with Kathleen Sullivan and then Paula Zahn.

"He was my TV husband for six years," Zahn saysd. "We went through an amazing news cycle together: Desert Storm, the Oklahoma City bombing, the first World Trade Center bombing. We covered two winter Olympics together. It was in France, we lived in Norway. And over our six-year relationship on the air, I discovered what a great friend he was," says Zahn.

In 1999, Smith hosted solo for the first time in his career with A&E's "Biography," a program that has enjoyed some of its best ratings with Smith at the helm. And while he'll continue to host this highly acclaimed cable series, it's Smith's return to morning television that has the women in his life pleased.

"Oh, it will be like old times. Get up, ma!" says Beatrice Smith.

"Look at the name, Harry. I mean, it's so anachronistic; it harks back to another time and place. Old-fashioned values, honesty, integrity. Those are the things that he brings to the show," says Muse.

"Little did Harry know, he'd be going back to his 4:30 wake-up call. So I'm happy to have him back in the morning trenches," says Zahn.

"He is the most generous human being on the planet. And I know that that's so corny for me to say such nice things about him, but he really is with his time, with his energy, with the kids, with me. He's the MVP in our house. He really is. He makes everybody around him better," says Joyce.