Emmy-winning broadcaster Hugh Downs dies at 99

Hugh Downs reviews the score to "Windows" that he wrote as Yo-Yo-Ma looks on May 3, 2000. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

July 2 (UPI) — Veteran broadcast journalist Hugh Downs, who became a household name through his time on NBC’s Today and ABC’s 20/20, has died, his family announced Thursday. He was 99.

Downs died Wednesday at his Scottsdale, Ariz., home from a heart condition, his great-niece, Molly Shaheen, said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Family also confirmed the news to The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter.

Downs once held the record as the person with the most hours on network television — more than 10,000 — until host Regis Philbin surpassed him in 2004.

Born in 1921 in Akron, Ohio, Downs got his broadcast start in the late 1930s at WLOK-Radio in his home state. He took a break from his journalism career to serve in World War II as part of the U.S. Army, before returning to an NBC affiliate in Chicago.

His first television job was with WBKB, a CBS affiliate in Chicago, where he served as an announcer for several shows, including “Caesar’s Hour” and “The Home Show.” He’s perhaps best known for being Jack Paar’s announcer on “The Tonight Show” from 1957-62.

Downs began his professional collaboration with Barbara Walters in the early 1960s, co-hosting NBC’s Today Show and Not for Women Only. In 1978, they moved to ABC to host 20/20, where he stayed until his retirement in 1999.

Downs won two Daytime Emmy Awards, one for hosting the talk show “Over Easy” in 1981.

Downs’ wife of more than 70 years died in 2017. He is survived by his children, Deirdre and H.R., grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


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