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Political Leaders, Journalists Attend Funeral for Newsman Tim Russert

Congressional leaders, journalists and others are remembering Tim Russert, a prominent U.S. journalist who died of a heart attack last week.

A private funeral mass was held in Washington Wednesday for the 58-year-old. A memorial service is being held at a major Washington center for performing arts, the Kennedy Center, later today.

President George Bush and first lady Laura Bush were among the attendees Tuesday at a wake for the newsman, who collapsed in his Washington office on Friday.

Russert, the Washington bureau chief for NBC News, was known for his tough interviews of political and influential figures, all while maintaining a cheerful demeanor.

He took over as host of NBC's Meet the Press in 1991, bringing the Sunday morning interview program to the top of the broadcast ratings.

President Bush described Russert as an institution in news and politics for more than two decades.

Both major presidential candidates - Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain - paid tribute to Russert as one of the leading journalists of his era. They both attended today's funeral.

Russert, an author of two best-selling books, came to broadcast journalism in 1984 after working for Democratic politicians from his native state of New York.

Russert was also known as a family man and had just returned from a trip to Italy, where he celebrated his son's graduation from Boston College.

Russert recently moved his father, known to the nation as "Big Russ," to a nursing home. One of Russert's books was about his relationship with his father, titled Big Russ and Me.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.