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Hugh Downs
Born Hugh Malcolm Downs
February 14, 1921 (1921-02-14) (age 88)
Akron, Ohio, U.S.
Occupation Television broadcaster, host, producer, author
Years active 1945—1999

Hugh Malcolm Downs (born February 14, 1921) is a retired American broadcaster, television host, producer, and author. He served as anchor of 20/20, host of The Today Show, announcer for the Tonight Show with Jack Paar, host of the Concentration game show, host of the PBS talk show Over Easy and co-host of the syndicated talk show Not for Women Only.


Early life

Hugh Downs was born in Akron, Ohio and educated at Lima Shawnee High School in Lima, Ohio; Bluffton College, a Mennonite school in Bluffton, Ohio; and Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, during the period 1938 to 1941. He worked as a radio announcer and program director at WLOK in Lima, Ohio, after his first year of college. In 1940 he moved on to WWJ in Detroit. Downs served briefly in the U.S. Army in 1943 and then joined the NBC radio network at WMAQ in Chicago as an announcer, where he lived until 1954. He married a coworker, Ruth Shaheen in 1944. He also attended Columbia University in New York City during 1955–56.

Television career

Downs made his first television news broadcast in September 1945 from the still experimental studio of WBKB-TV (now WBBM-TV), a station then owned by the Balaban and Katz theater subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. He became a TV regular, announcing for Hawkins Falls in 1950, the first successful television soap opera, which was sponsored by Lever Brothers Surf detergent. He also announced the Burr Tillstrom children's show Kukla, Fran and Ollie from the NBC studios at Chicago's Merchandise Mart after the network picked up the program from WBKB. In March 1954, Downs moved to New York to accept a position as announcer for Pat Weaver's The Home Show starring Arlene Francis. That program lasted until August 1957. He was the announcer for Sid Caesar's Caesar's Hour for the 1956–57 season. Downs became a bona fide television "personality" as Jack Paar's announcer on The Tonight Show from July 1957 until Paar's departure in March 1962, and then shared hosting until Johnny Carson took over in October 1962. In August 1958, he concurrently began an eleven-year run hosting the original version of the game show Concentration. He hosted NBC's Today Show for nine years from September 1962 to October 1971. He co-hosted the syndicated television program Not for Women Only with Barbara Walters in 1975 and 1976.

Downs appeared as a panelist on the television game show To Tell the Truth.

Downs earned a postgraduate degree in gerontology from Hunter College while he was hosting Over Easy, a PBS television program about aging that aired from 1977 to 1983.

He was probably best known as the Emmy Award-winning co-anchor (again paired with Walters) of the ABC news TV show 20/20, a primetime news magazine program, from the show's second episode in 1978 until his retirement in 1999. His closing tagline "We're in touch, so you be in touch", was written by Brock Brower.

In 1985, he was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as holding the record for the greatest number of hours on network commercial television (15,188 hours), though he lost the record for most hours on all forms of television to Regis Philbin in 2004.

A published composer himself, Downs hosted the PBS showcase for classical music, Live from Lincoln Center from 1990 to 1996.

Downs made a cameo appearance on Family Guy in the episode "The Kiss Seen Around the World" where he was captured by a crazed assailant. After escaping the madman's grasp, Downs returned moments later with "Remember me, dirtbag?!" and engaged in a fist-fight and then flew off into the sky saying, "Hugh Downs away!".

Downs can currently be seen in infomercials for Bottom Line Publications (including their World's Greatest Treasury of Health Secrets), as well as another one for a personal coach. He did an infomercial for Where There's a Will There's an A in 2003. His infomercial work since then has aroused some controversy, with many arguing the products are scams.[1] As of the summer of 2008, Downs can also be seen in regional public service announcements in Arizona, where he currently lives, for that state's motor vehicles division, as well as in many Public TV short form programs as the Host of educational interstitials.[2]

Film appearances

Public service and political views

Downs was a special consultant to the United Nations for refugee problems from 1961-64 and served as Chairman of the Board of the United States Committee for UNICEF.

Downs wrote a column for Science Digest during the 1960s. He was Science Consultant to Westinghouse Laboratories and the Ford Foundation and an elected member of the National Academy of Science. He is a Board of Governors member of the National Space Society and was a longtime president and chairman of the predecessor National Space Institute. The asteroid 71000 Hughdowns is named after him.

The auditorium of Shawnee High School in Lima, Ohio and the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University are named in his honor.

Downs has expressed public praise for many libertarian viewpoints. He opposes the U.S. "war on drugs". He did several pieces about the war on drugs and hemp.


  • Yours Truly... 1960, Holt, Rinehart and Winston (no ISBN); autobiography
  • A Shoal of Stars: A True-Life Account of Everyman's Dream: Sailing Across the Pacific to Exotic Lands, 1967, Doubleday, (no ISBN)
  • Rings Around Tomorrow, 1970, Doubleday, (no ISBN), an anthology of Down's science articles
  • Potential: The Way to Emotional Maturity, 1973, Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-03742-2
  • Thirty Dirty Lies About Old Age, 1979, Argus, ISBN 0-89505-033-1
  • The Best Years: How to Plan for Fulfillment, Security, and Happiness in the Retirement Years, 1981, Delacorte Press hardcover, ISBN 0-385-28076-9
    • The Best Years Book, 1982, Dell Publishing paperback, ISBN 0-440-53901-3
  • On Camera: My 10,000 Hours on Television, 1986, Putnam: ISBN 0-399-13203-1, Thorndike Press large print: ISBN 0-89621-788-4
  • Fifty to Forever, 1994, Thomas Nelson Inc, ISBN 0-8407-7786-8, a collection of essays
  • Perspectives, 1995, Turner Publications, ISBN 1-57036-219-X, 50 selections from his ten-minute radio essays
  • Greater Phoenix: The Desert in Bloom, 1999, Towery Publications, ISBN 1-881096-69-6
  • Pure Gold: A Lifetime of Love and Marriage, 2001, Arizona State University Press, ISBN 0-9717160-0-5
  • My America: What My Country Means to Me, by 150 Americans from All Walks of Life, (editor), 2002, Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-3369-7, large print: ISBN 0-7432-4089-8
  • Letter to a Great Grandson: A Message of Love, Advice, and Hopes for the Future, 2004, Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-4723-X


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Hugh Downs - Other works

External links

Media offices
Preceded by
Gene Rayburn
The Tonight Show announcer
Succeeded by
Ed McMahon
Preceded by
John Chancellor
Today Show Host with Barbara Walters
September 17, 1962–October 1, 1971
Succeeded by
Frank McGee
Preceded by
Harold Hayes and Robert Hughes

(premier episode only)
20/20 Anchor
himself June 13, 1978–1984,
with Barbara Walters, 1984–1999

Succeeded by
Barbara Walters


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Hugh Downs (born February 14, 1921, in Akron, Ohio) is a retired American actor and television host.


  • Such close observations of apes and birds and dolphins remind us that humanity is part of a great animal kingdom. All species within this kingdom differ from one another in significant ways, to be sure, but the kingdom does not seem to be organized on the superior/inferior hierarchy. Species are merely different from one another; they are not better than, nor more or less advanced than, each other. The core experience of all animal life is strikingly similar.
    • "ABC Radio Perspective on ABC News 20/20 on May 29, 1994"
  • This country is a one-party country. Half of it is called Republican and half is called Democrat. It doesn't make any difference. All the really good ideas belong to the Libertarians.
    • (1997)
  • In today's anti-drug climate, people don't want to hear about the commercial potential of marijuana. The reason is that the flowering top of a female hemp plant contains a drug. But from 1842 through the 1890s a powerful concentrated extract of marijuana was the second most prescribed drug in the United States. In all that time the medical literature didn't list any of the ill effects claimed by today's drug warriors.
    • "Hugh Downs commentary on hemp, for ABC News, NY, 11/90"
  • If hemp could supply the energy needs of the United States, its value would be inestimable. Now that the drug czar is in final retreat, America has an opportunity to, once and for all, say farewell to the Exxon Valdez, Saddam Hussein and a prohibitively expensive brinkmanship in the desert sands of Saudi Arabia.
    • "Hugh Downs commentary on hemp, for ABC News, NY, 11/90"


  • A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.
  • I've always thought that the stereotype of the dirty old man is really the creation of a dirty young man who wants the field to himself.
  • I have no ego investment in being on the air. I don't knock others for whom that kind of attention is like oxygen, but I don't miss anything about it.
  • To have a facility like this really adds a world-class potential (to the area), ... I'm sure I'll be out here to see some shows.

External links

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