Downs, a venerable and extremely affable television host, is known
for telegraphing intelligence, patience, and decency. The Guinness
Book of World Records reports that Downs, among the most familiar
figures in the history of the medium, has clocked more hours on
television (10,347 through May of 1994) than any other person in
U.S. TV history.
began his broadcasting career as a radio announcer at age 18 in
Lima, Ohio, moving later to NBC Chicago as a staff announcer. In
1957 he became well known to American audiences as Jack Paar's sidekick
on the Tonight Show and remained in that spot through 1962.
In 1958 he began simultaneously hosting the original version of
Concentration, helping to establish his niche of doing more
serious and thought-provoking television even within the game show
served as NBC's utility host for many of the network's 1950s and
early 1960s news, information, and entertainment programs and added
The Today Show to his list of network assignments, replacing
John Chancellor who had served for just 15 months as Dave Garroway's
replacement on the original Today Show. Downs was the primary
host of the Today Show for nine years.
reassuring, professional manner in the roles of announcer, sidekick,
host, and anchor is unrivaled in U.S. television. He has said that
he tries to be the link between what goes on behind and in front
of the camera and the audience at home, hoping that he serves as
an "honest pipeline to the audience." He believes that television
works best when a familiar presence is there to help guide viewers
in and out of features and stories, however abbreviated that function
may be. From 1978 to 1999 he best demonstrated that commitment as
the anchor or co-anchor of ABC's 20/20. Downs came out of
a very busy retirement to take the 20/20 position when a
near-disastrous premier almost kept the show off the air.
great affability and smooth manner have made it possible for him
to get along well with whomever he has been paired with, repeatedly
taking the edge off some of the sharper moments with Jack Paar who
was well known for his outbursts, tantrums, and eccentricities.
Ironically, and inadvisably in the view of some, Barbara Walters
took the position across from Downs on 20/20 just after a major
brouhaha developed when she was asked to leave her position as the
first female network news co-anchor, paired unsuccessfully with
Harry Reasoner. But with Downs the chemistry was right and the two
worked together successfully since 1984.
refer to Downs as one of the last "renaissance men." He is a proficient
sailor and aviator--even though colorblind. He has composed, published,
and had orchestral pieces performed, has hosted Live From Lincoln
Center for PBS since 1990, and is exceptionally knowledgeable
about science and health. One of his special interests is the U.S.
space program. Another focuses on issues surrounding aging, and
he has earned a post-graduate certificate in geriatric medicine
while hosting Over Easy for the Public Broadcasting Service,
the first successful television program in the United States about
aging. Always modest, Downs shuns the "renaissance" label, preferring
instead to call himself "a champion dilettante."
is the author of eight books, one an autobiography, one a collection
of his science articles (on astronomy and the environment), one
an account of a sailing voyage across the Pacific, and five on the
subjects of aging, health, and psychological maturity. Downs' public
service commitments are also notable. He is currently the Chairman
of the Board of the United States Committee for UNICEF, Chairman
of the Board of Governors of the National Space Society, and serves
as an elected Member of the National Academy of Science, and a past-member
of NASA's Advisory Council. He recently received an award from the
American Psychiatric Association for his work on an ABC News Special,
Depression, Beyond the Darkness, and also received an Emmy
for his work on The Poisoning of America about damage to
the environment. He was named Broadcaster of the Year by the International
Radio and Television Society in 1990. In 1995 he was honored with
a special salute ceremony by the Museum of Broadcast Communications
Photo courtesy of Hugh Downs
(MALCOLM) DOWNS. Born in Akron, Ohio, U.S.A, 14 February 1921.
Attended Bluffton College, Ohio, 1938-39; Wayne State College, 1940-41;
Columbia University, 1955-56. Married: Ruth Shaheen, 1944; children:
Hugh Raymond and Deirdre Lynn. Began career as staff announcer and
program director, WLOK, Lima, Ohio, 1939-40; staff announcer, WWJ,
Detroit, Michigan, 1940-42; staff announcer, NBC-Radio, Chicago,
Illinois, 1943-54; in television from 1949; chairman, board of directors,
Raylin Productions, Inc, from 1960; special consultant to U.N. on
refugee problems, 1961-64; Science consultant to Westinghouse Laboratories
and the Ford Foundation. Member: Actors' Equity Association; Screen
Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists;
National Space Institute (president); U.S. Committee for UNICEF
(chairman); Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. Address:
c/o 20/20, American Broadcasting Corporation, 1330 Avenue
of the Americas, New York, New York 10019.
1949 Kukla, Fran, and Ollie
1950 Hawkins Falls
1951-55 American Inventory
1951 Your Luncheon Date (announcer)
1954-57 The Home Show (announcer)
1956-57 Sid Caesar's Hour (announcer)
1957-62 The Jack Paar Show (announcer)
1958-68 Concentration (emcee)
1962 The Tonight Show (announcer)
1962-72 The Today Show (host)
1972 Not for Women Only (host)
1974 Variety (host) (pilot
1977-83 Over Easy
1978-99 20/20 (host)
1985 Growing Old in America
Woman of the Year
1975 Broken Treaty at Battle Mountain: A Discussion (moderator)
1986 Liberty Weekend Preview (reporter)
1986 NBC's 60th Anniversary Celebration (reporter) 1987 Today
at 35 (reporter)
by Chance (documentary; executive producer and narrator), 1974;
Oh God! Book II, 1980.
WLOK, Lima, Ohio, 1939-40; WWJ, Detroit, Michigan, 1940-42; NBC
Radio, Chicago, 1943-54.
Shoal of Stars. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1967.
Around Tomorrow. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1970
The Way to Emotional Maturity. Garden City, New York: Doubleday,
Dirty Lies About Old Age. Niles, Illinois: Argus, 1979.
Best Years Book: How to Plan for Fulfillment, Security, and Happiness
in the Retirement Years. New York: Delacorte/Eleanor Fried,
Camera: My Ten Thousand Hours on Television. New York: Putnam,
to Forever. Nashville, Tennessee: T.N.
Atlanta, Georgia: Turner Publishing, 1995.
Downs." Ad Astra (Washington, D.C.), July-August, 1991.
"Hugh Downs: TV's Marathon Man." Broadcasting (Washington,
D.C.), 5 February 1990.
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