Broadcasting icon Hugh Downs died on Wednesday at his Scottsdale, Arizona, home at the age of 99, his family confirmed to NBC News on Thursday.
Downs, an Ohio native, joined NBC in Chicago after he served in the Army and soon became a fixture in American households. The Emmy Award-winning broadcaster served as a “Today” show anchor for nine years from 1962 to 1971, one of the country's most turbulent periods.
Downs spoke on air during some of the most profound moments in American history, such as the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John F. Kennedy.
One of Downs’ first producers has also become a household name in America: Barbara Walters. The duo worked together again years later when Downs joined her on ABC’s “20/20” in 1978, where Downs remained until his 1999 retirement from broadcast.
Walters and Downs were briefly reunited in Studio 1A at Rockefeller Center in 2012 for the 60th anniversary of “Today.”
In the 1950s and 1960s, Downs had a hand in some of the programs that have transformed NBC and worked to shape the network's history. He helped establish “The Tonight Show” franchise with Jack Parr in 1957, a show now hosted by Jimmy Fallon more than 60 years later.
Almost simultaneously with his run on “Today,” Downs also hosted an NBC game show called “Concentration” from 1958 to 1969, a memory game where contestants tried to find matching pairs of cards on a game board.
The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University has a page dedicated to Downs, where it says Down personifies the school’s mission with his “nuanced understanding of human communication across a wide array of contexts.”
“We in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication feel very fortunate that Mr. Downs was generous enough to share his name with our school,” the website says.
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