Chris Matthews has been following American politics since the first Eisenhower campaign. As a young teen, he became enthralled with the historic rivalry of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. It was a time of big downtown rallies and ticker tape parades on Wall Street, when supporters wore boater hats and bright campaign buttons.
Hardly a decade later he was engaged in American politics professionally. Back home from the Peace Corps in Africa, he was working in the U.S. Senate. Then came his tour in the White House as a presidential speechwriter, followed by his front-row seat as top aide to the legendary Speaker of the House, Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr.
In the late 1980s, Matthews switched to full-time journalism, serving as Washington Bureau Chief for The San Francisco Examiner. There he covered some of the greatest events of the late 20th century, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first all-races election in South Africa.
He began his career on television in 1994 as host of a two-hour nightly program on the NBC-owned America’s Talking network. Three years later, he launched Hardball, now on MSNBC, which was the title of his best-selling handbook on real-life politics published in 1988. He has been on the air every weekday night since.
In all the years that Matthews has been involved in the country’s public life he’s kept an abiding faith in electoral politics, and his quadrennial hope that the American people will make the best judgment on who should lead. He has kept that faith through war and peace, good times and bad, through great leaders and not-so-great. He has never lost his vigorous love of democracy and how it can serve to make this country, through all its challenges, a more perfect union. And his most recent best-selling book, Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked, is a magnificent personal history of a time when the two great political opponents of the 1980s, Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan, worked together for the benefit of the country.
Matthews was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Mary Teresa (née Shields) and Herb Matthews, a court reporter. His father was a Protestant of English and Northern Irish ancestry, and his mother was from an Irish Catholic family.
Chris fondly remembers his paternal grandmother, an immigrant from Northern Ireland who, once widowed, single-handedly built a successful laundry service. “She spoke with an Irish accent and conveyed a strong, upbeat, fun-loving attitude her whole life,” he said.
Matthews is himself a Roman Catholic. He attended La Salle College High School, and the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He went on to do graduate work in economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was also a visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. He holds honorary degrees from numerous universities and colleges, including Washington University, Howard University, College of Holy Cross, and Fordham.
Matthews is married to Kathleen Matthews (née Cunningham), Executive Vice President of Marriott International.