Ms. Bowser, who began contributing to “NewsHour” in 1988 and served as its health correspondent before retiring in 2013, was known for her doggedness as a reporter and her dry off-camera wit. Her coverage spanned the Oklahoma City bombing, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the fierce debate over health-care restructuring under President Barack Obama.
“Betty Ann was as solid and reliable a reporter as there is, taking on assignments no matter how tough,” anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff said in an online “NewsHour” tribute. “You could drop her in the middle of any story, and she’d figure it out quickly.”
Ms. Bowser began her television career in 1966, working at a local station in Virginia’s Hampton Roads area. She soon rose to become co-anchor at what was then WTAR, the region’s CBS affiliate, where she was one of only two women in the newsroom.
“She said a lot of people wrote her off as some dumb girl who didn’t know what she was talking about,” Kelley recalled in a phone interview. “But my mom was steadfast on the principle that you always do your homework. When people try to discredit you or treat you like you don’t understand what you’re talking about, you have the intellect to back it up.”
Her breakthrough came after she joined CBS News in 1974. She was in California shortly after President Richard M. Nixon resigned from the White House and received a tip that Nixon would be playing at a golf course near his residence in San Clemente. Ms. Bowser’s editors were skeptical, Kelley recalled her saying, but she received permission to rent a car and visit the course.
Notable deaths in 2018 and 2019: Nipsey Hussle, George H.W. Bush, Stan Lee, John McCain, Aretha Franklin and other famous faces we’ve lost
Sure enough, Nixon was there. He granted Ms. Bowser one of his first post-presidential interviews, leading CBS anchor Walter Cronkite to offer his congratulations in a telephone call, Ms. Bowser said. (As she told it, network producers expressed their appreciation in a different way, sending a helicopter to pick her up while leaving the rental car stranded in the parking lot.)
Ms. Bowser later went overseas to cover African and Middle Eastern affairs and co-anchored a youth-oriented news program — “30 Minutes,” a play on the network’s successful series “60 Minutes” — with newsman Christopher Glenn.
She briefly left journalism in the 1980s to raise her sons and work in real estate but returned to freelance for “NewsHour” before becoming a Denver-based correspondent in the mid-1990s. At the time, the show was presented by Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer, who were succeeded in recent years by Woodruff and Gwen Ifill, who died in 2016.
Ms. Bowser “was a journalist who always felt she could do a little more digging to get to the bottom of a story,” said Murrey Jacobson, senior “NewsHour” producer for national affairs. She was particularly proud of her coverage of the levees in New Orleans, where she reported on design problems that contributed to catastrophic flooding after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Her resolve extended to capturing the perfect moment on film, regardless of the emotional or financial cost. While working on a story about the V-22 Osprey, a controversial tilt-rotor helicopter that was deployed following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, she insisted on waiting late at a military landing site to capture footage of the aircraft in action.
“The landing kept getting delayed, and I began to worry about our crew going overtime and being over budget,” said Dan Sagalyn, deputy senior producer for foreign affairs and defense. “And she said, ‘Dan, don’t worry about the crew — just get that shot.’ And she was right — it was a magnificent scene. . . . I’ve never had a correspondent tell me that: ‘Get that shot. We really need that shot, to hell with the cost.’ ”
Elizabeth Ann Bowser was born in Norfolk on Aug. 19, 1944. Her father sold cars and insurance, and her mother was a homemaker.
She studied English and journalism at Ohio Wesleyan University and, after graduating in 1966, wrote obituaries for the Virginian-Pilot before joining the television station WAVY.
A marriage to Chris Kelley, a fellow CBS correspondent, ended in divorce. Survivors include two sons, Patrick Kelley of Westminster, Colo., and Matthew Kelley of Denver.
Ms. Bowser covered scores of major breaking news stories while at “NewsHour,” including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, when Timothy McVeigh used a truck full of explosives to destroy a federal office building. But she also wrangled sit-down interviews with figures such as real estate businessman Donald Trump, who in 1992 was known less for his political views than for his multiple bankruptcies and tabloid-saturated affair with actress Marla Maples.
“Are you a Republican or a Democrat?” Ms. Bowser asked at the time.
The future president replied that he was “probably a Republican, but . . . really more for an individual than I am for a party.”
Ms. Bowser moved to the health beat in 2009, amid a rancorous national debate over what became the Affordable Care Act. She often imbued her reporting with a personal touch, incorporating reflections from patients struggling to find health insurance or, occasionally, stories on her own experience with health care.
One of her last pieces, from March 2013, featured an interview with an expert on long-term senior care but began with a striking story from her own life: “The roller coaster often starts in the middle of the night with a long-distance phone call. ‘Miss Bowser,’ the caller begins tentatively. ‘It’s about your Mother.’ ”
“And that’s how my chaotic ride through the years of taking care of Mom got going,” she continued. “It ended 10 years later when she died at the age of 90.”
Read more Washington Post obituaries