Anchorman Hugh Downs, who's best known for his long tenure co-hosting ABC's news magazine 20/20 with Barbara Walters has died at the age of 99. Downs, who also hosted NBC's Today Show from 1962 through 1971, died Wednesday in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Hugh Downs had a career in broadcast television that lasted more than half a century. While he joined 20/20 in 1978, and stayed there until his retirement in 1999, he had already been a TV staple for many years. He got his major network start on NBC's Home in 1954, and, according to Variety, went on to net a whopping 900 television hours just on that series. In 1957, Downs began as Jack Paar's announcer on The Tonight Show, and held that post until the summer of 1962, becoming a genuine TV personality for the first time during his stint on that show.
Actually, if you were watching TV anytime in the 1950s through the 1990s, it would have been extremely rare for you to have not either seen Hugh Downs or heard his voice. He announced for comedian Sid Caesar's Caesar’s Hour for one season, from 1956-1957, and in 1958 began hosting the game show Concentration, which he continued to do for over a decade, and while also an anchor on Today. It was also during this period that Downs also narrated and reported for a number of news documentaries and specials, including The American Wilderness, The Ice People, The First Americans, and The Great Barrier Reef.
In 1971, Downs left Today to pursue teaching, consulting and writing work, but returned to TV full force when he joined 20/20 in 1978, where he did a lot of reporting for the program, with a focus on adventure news segments and medical breakthroughs. By 1985, the Guinness Book of World Records certified that Downs had the most hours on network commercial television of anyone else, which, at the time, was 15,188 hours. Even though he had plenty of years left on TV after that, he did eventually lose the record to Regis Philbin in 2004.
Along with his work on 20/20, Downs kept narrating, and won his second Emmy Award for the 1988 news special, The Poisoning of America, also lending his narration and reporting skills to specials such as Growing Old in America, and Depression: Beyond the Darkness. Downs would also win Emmys for his 1989 interview with actress Patty Duke, in which she talked about her manic depression, Live From Lincoln Center: Yo Yo Ma in Concert and for hosting the PBS talk show about aging, Over Easy.
Hugh Downs clearly contributed a lot to the world of news reporting, and to television in general and will be missed. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.
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