Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
Awards: The Pennsylvania Society's Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement, Abraham Lincoln Award, David Brinkley Award, John F. Kennedy Memorial Award, Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award
Journalist Chris Matthews was born and raised in Philadelphia. Matthews is also an author and has worked as a speechwriter for President Carter as well as an aide to House speaker Thomas P. O’Neill. He has been an avid political commentator, hosting the critically acclaimed talk show Hardball until resigning amid controversial remarks in 2020. Read more here.
“Chris Matthews.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 March 2020. 9 September 2020.
The following is an Archived biography. For current information, see the Abstract for links.
Christopher Matthews was born in Philadelphia on December 17, 1945. Chris Matthews was the second oldest of five sons to Herb Matthews and Mary Shields. Since 1980, Matthews has been married to Kathleen Matthews, an Executive Vice President with J.W. Marriott. Together the couple has three children: Michael, Thomas, and Caroline.
Matthews became interested in politics at the young age of five according to his brothers. He spent a lot of time with his grandfather, Charles Patrick Shields, a Democratic Committeeman. Matthews' father was a court reporter and spent the majority of his time at work. Matthews attended La Salle College High School, a small Catholic high school in Philadelphia. Matthews continued his education at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. Four years later he graduated from Holy Cross in 1967 and decided to pursue a doctorate in economics at the University of North Carolina. One year later in 1968, he dropped out of UNC to join the Peace Corps. After spending two years in Swaziland, Matthews returned to the United States.
In 1974, he ran for Congress, representing northeast Philadelphia. This campaign was unsuccessful and led him to start a job search that ended on Capitol Hill. Matthews' first job on Capitol Hill was as a police officer for the U.S. Capitol Police. At this time, these jobs were used as a method of accessing Washington politics and often used as a form of patronage. Shortly after obtaining his job on Capitol Hill, Matthews became a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter. Next, Matthews worked on the staffs of Senator Frank Moss of Utah and Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine. In 1981, Matthews became the top aide to Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill. Matthews became very influential on O'Neill, most importantly helping him become more telegenic.
After O'Neill retired in 1987, Matthews started work as a columnist for The San Francisco Examiner and eventually The San Francisco Chronicle. These newspapers helped Matthews establish himself on television with his appearances on CBS This Morning and Good Morning America. This allowed Matthews to host his own show In-Depth, which aired on America's Talking, a small television network.
In 1997, Hardball premiered on CNBC. Hardball gained its fame and Matthews made his name as a news anchor through the Clinton impeachment. Immediately this show gained a following and also gained much criticism. Bill Kovach, a chairman on the Committee of Concerned Journalists, considered Matthews a part of a "new class of chatterers who emerged in this scandal... a group of loosely credentialed, self-interested performers whose primary job is remaining on TV." Though often questioned whether or not the show would survive, it still airs daily. Mark Leibovich of the New York Times compares Matthews to "an exuberant political animal" and a "ranting uncle at the Thanksgiving table whom the kids have learned to tune out." Though many people do not find Matthews credible, 660 thousand tune into Hardball each night after its move to MSNBC, a "younger, edgier, left-tilting cable network."
As a journalist, Matthews has received many awards for his work. He received one of his most distinguished awards in March of 2004, the David Brinkley Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. In addition to this award, Matthews has also accepted the Abraham Lincoln Award, given to him by the Union League of Philadelphia. In 2005, Matthews received the Gold Medal Award from the Pennsylvania Society. He was chosen for these awards for his work in journalism, especially on his show Hardball.
In addition to Matthews' career as a television host, journalist, and politician, he is also a renowned author. His first book, Hardball, was published in 1988. Hardball gained immediate success and was named a New York Times Best Seller. Hardball has been used in colleges across the country in political science courses. Then, in 1997, Matthews wrote Kennedy & Nixon, which Readers Digest named "one of today's best non-fiction." In 2002, Matthews published Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think and in 2003, he wrote American: Beyond Our Grandest Notions, which both became New York Times Best Sellers. In the beginning of 2007 Matthews finished his fifth book, Life's A Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success, which did not turn out as successful as the other four according to Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. Stewart called the book "a self-hurt book" and "a recipe for sadness" when Matthews appeared on Stewart's show.
Chris Matthews currently lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Hardball: How Politics is Played- Told by One Who Knows the Game. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
Kennedy & Nixon: The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.
America, Beyond Our Grandest Notions. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
Life's A Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success. New York: Random House, 2007.
Akande, Benjamin. " 'Hardball' Pundit Offers a Tome on Politics and Life." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 9 May 2008: 5.