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Dave Garroway
Dave Garroway
Born David Cunningham Garroway
July 13, 1913(1913-07-13)
Schenectady, New York
Died July 21, 1982 (aged 69)
Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
Occupation Television journalist
Spouse(s) Adele Dwyer
Pamela Wilde (1956-1961)
Sarah Lee Lippincott (1980 - 1982)[1]
Children David Garroway, Jr.
Paris Garroway
Michael Garroway
Notable credit(s) The Today Show Anchor (1952–1961)
Wide Wide World Host (1955–1958)

David Cunningham "Dave" Garroway (July 13, 1913 – July 21, 1982) was the founding host of NBC's Today from 1952 to 1961. His easygoing, relaxed, and relaxing style belied a battle with depression that may have contributed to the end of his days as a leading television personality—and, eventually, his life.


Early life

Born in Schenectady, New York, Garroway was 14 when he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he attended University City High School and Washington University in St. Louis, where he earned a degree in abnormal psychology[2].

He began his broadcasting career modestly, starting as an NBC page in 1938, and then graduated from NBC's school for announcers, 23rd in a class of 24. Even so, he landed a job at influential Pittsburgh radio station KDKA in 1939. He roamed the region, filing a number of memorable reports from a hot-air balloon, from a U.S. Navy submarine in the Ohio River, and from deep inside a coal mine. Those early reports earned Garroway a reputation for finding a good story, even if it took him to unusual places.


When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Garroway enlisted in the U.S. Navy, but one trip out to Honolulu convinced the young man that perhaps he was a little better-suited for radio instead. The Navy agreed to let him run a yeoman's school instead, and on his off-hours, he hosted a radio show where he played jazz records and reminisced about the old days back in Chicago. After the war, he returned to the Windy City as a disc jockey at WMAQ (AM). On the air, he retained the persona he crafted in Honolulu to great success in a series of radio programs: The 11:60 Club, The Dave Garroway Show, and Reserved for Garroway. One oddity Garroway introduced on his radio shows was having the studio audience respond to a song number not by applauding but by snapping their fingers. He also was heard often as an announcer on NBC's Monitor. He briefly hosted the afternoon drive shift at KFI, Los Angeles in late 1970 and early 1971. He had been heard earlier on KFI in an NBC radio comedy show in the late 1940s and on Monitor segments 1955-1961.


Garroway was introduced to the national television audience when he hosted the experimental musical variety show Garroway at Large, telecast live from Chicago. It was carried by NBC from June 18, 1949 to June 24, 1951.

His shows reflected his relaxed, informal style. In 1960, New York Times reviewer Richard F. Shepard wrote, "He does not crash into the home with the false jollity and thunderous witticisms of a backslapper. He is pleasant, serious, scholarly looking and not obtrusively convivial." Garroway was known for his signoff, saying "Peace" with an upraised palm.

Along with Arthur Godfrey, Arlene Francis, and Jack Paar, Garroway was one of the pioneers of television talk. Television commentator Steven D. Stark traces the origins of the style to Chicago. Garroway, Studs Terkel, and Hugh Downs all hosted relaxed, garrulous, extemporaneous shows in that city in the early 1950s. Earlier radio and television voices spoke with an authoritative "announcer's" intonation, resembling public oration, often dropping about a musical fifth on the last word of a sentence. Garroway was one of the broadcasters who introduced conversational style and tone to television, beginning some broadcasts as though the viewer were sitting in the studio with him, as in this November 20, 1957, introduction for the Today show: "And how are you about the world today? Let's see what kind of shape it's in; there is a glimmer of hope."

Legendary pioneering NBC president Sylvester "Pat" Weaver picked Garroway to host his new morning news-and-entertainment experiment, the Today show, in 1951. Garroway soon was joined by news editor Jim Fleming and announcer Jack Lescoulie as television's first loose "family" of the airwaves when the show debuted on Monday, January 14, 1952. Though initially panned by critics, Garroway's style attracted a large audience that enjoyed his easygoing presence early in the morning. His familiar "cohost," a chimpanzee with the puckish name of J. Fred Muggs, didn't hurt his genial manner, but his concurrent seriousness in dealing with news stories and ability to clearly explain abstract concepts earned him the nickname "The Communicator" and eventually won praise from critics and viewers alike.

At the same time he did Today, Garroway also hosted a Friday night variety series, The Dave Garroway Show, from October 2, 1953 to June 25, 1954; and on October 16, 1955, he began hosting NBC's Sunday afternoon live documentary Wide Wide World, continuing with that series until June 8, 1958.

Garroway had a vast curiosity that led Today wherever his ideas took it—to Paris in 1959 and Rome in 1960, to car shows and technology expos, to plays and movies, and even on board an Air Force B-52 for a practice bombing run—in short, everywhere in the world then accessible to television. When the show couldn't go outside to the world, the world was brought into the studio, evidenced by the parade of politicians, writers, artists, scientists, economists, musicians, and many more who visited Garroway and company in the RCA Exhibition Hall, Today's then-home on W. 49th St. in Manhattan.

But Garroway's easygoing camera presence masked a man fighting inner demons from several angles. He reportedly developed an addiction to a concoction from his Chicago days, called "The Doctor," composed of vitamin B-12 and Dexedrine; it was said to have begun affecting his mental acuity and his temper. Disagreements with staff members became more frequent, and some days Garroway would disappear in the middle of the show, leaving Lescoulie to finish the live program.

Far worse, however, was the April 1961 suicide of his wife, Pamela, plunging Garroway further into depression and mental instability. Eventually, these troubles affected his on-camera performance. A few weeks later, Garroway lay down in the Today show studio, refusing to rise until NBC gave in to his contract demands. The network called his bluff, and on June 16, 1961 fired television's "Communicator" from the morning genre he helped pioneer.

In July, 1969, Garroway launched a daytime talk show on WNAC-TV, Tempo Boston,[2] which he hoped would be picked up into national syndication. The program lasted into early 1970 and never aired outside Boston.

Garroway appeared sporadically on other television programs without achieving anywhere near the success and recognition levels he enjoyed on Today. The most viewers saw of him for the rest of the 1960s and 1970s was whenever he re-emerged for Today anniversaries. His final such appearance was the 30th anniversary show, January 14, 1982.

He was very interested in astronomy, and during a tour of Russian telescopes, he met his second wife, astronomer Sarah Lee Lippincott. In his final years, he attended astronomy symposia at Swarthmore College and spent time at Sproul Observatory.

Other media

In his role as Today host, Garroway acted a pitchman for several of the show's sponsors. Among them were Admiral television sets, Alcoa and Sergeant's Dog Food. Most of the appearances were in the form of print ads in newspapers and magazines.

Garroway, an inveterate music lover, lent his name to a series of recordings of jazz, classical music and pop released in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Among them were Wide, Wide World of Jazz, 1957's Some of My Favorites and 1958's Dave Garroway's Orchestra: An Adventure in Hi-Fi Sound[3]. In a lighter vein, Garroway narrated a compilation of romantic songs performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra, Getting Friendly with Music, in 1960.

Garroway also served as narrator for special albums, including 1964's The Great Campaigners, 1928-1960[4] and 1960's Names From the Wars.

In 1960, Garroway penned Fun on Wheels, an activity book for children on road trips. The book was revised and re-issued in 1962 and 1964[5].

Toward the end of his life, Garroway planned to write an autobiography. The book never made it past the research stage; the surviving notes, manuscripts, audio tapes and news clippings were sent to former Today researcher Lee Lawrence. Upon Lawrence's death in 2003, the boxes were turned over to the Library of American Broadcasting, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, where they reside as of 2009[6].


Garroway was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Swarthmore, Pennsylvania home on July 21, 1982.[7] He had one son, David Jr., and a daughter, Paris. When he married Pamela, he adopted her son, Michael, whom he raised as his own, even after her death.

The July 22 edition of Today was mainly a remembrance of Garroway. Sidekick Jack Lescoulie, news editor Frank Blair and former consumer reporter Betty Furness offered tributes on the show[8]. Garroway's passing was noted on NBC Nightly News with John Chancellor, the man who replaced Garroway on Today 21 years earlier[9]. On NBC News Overnight, host Linda Ellerbee closed the program with "Peace," instead of her usual, "And so it goes."[10]

Because of Garroway's dedication to the cause of mental health, his second wife, Sarah, helped establish the Dave Garroway Laboratory for the Study of Depression at the University of Pennsylvania. He was also honored for his contribution to television with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as well as the St. Louis Walk of Fame. He is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.


Robert McKimson's 1960 cartoon Wild Wild World depicts "Cave Darroway" presenting footage from the Stone Age.


  1. ^ NNDB - Dave Garroway
  2. ^ a b "Peace, Old Tiger," Time magazine, July 18, 1969,9171,901084,00.html
  3. ^ Cameo Records LP Discography Full; retrieved March 30, 2009
  4. ^ Hot Platters: Personalities. Retrieved March 30, 2009
  5. ^ Open Library; retrieved March 30, 2009:
  6. ^ Lee Lawrence Papers, retrieved March 30, 2009
  7. ^ McCoy, Craig R.; Van Atta, Burr (July 22, 1982). "DAVE GARROWAY, FIRST 'TODAY' HOST, KILLS HIMSELF AT SWARTHMORE HOME". Retrieved June 24, 2009.  
  8. ^ NBC News Today rundown, July 22, 1982
  9. ^ NBC Nightly News rundown, July 21, 1982
  10. ^ NBC News Overnight rundown, July 21, 1982

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External links

Preceded by
Today Show Host
January 14, 1952–April 21, 1961
Succeeded by
John Chancellor

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