Heffner, 80, has interviewed some 1,200 political heavyweights and activists since 1956, ranging from Malcolm X to Mario Cuomo to Isaac Asimov. The program, which began on an NBC station, later moved to public TV.
Veteran TV journalist Bill Moyers put Heffner on the receiving end of questions during Saturday's anniversary program.
The role, said the Rutgers University professor and former ratings board chairman of the Motion Pictures Association of America, made him a bit nervous, The New York Times reported.
Heffner blamed being "too busy with material things" for the rise of huge media corporations, spin control and sound bites replacing conversation.
But Heffner has no plans to retire.
"I realize how lucky I've been," Heffner said. "I deal with fascinating people who have fascinating ideas. I think I've made it this long because I've been so stimulated. This has been a lifesaver."