Hugh Downs, longtime anchor of ABC Television’s primetime news magazine 20/20, is one of the most familiar figures in the history of the medium. He left the program and regular broadcasting in September of 1999 to write and lecture and to pursue other activities: travel, flying, science studies, riding, sailing, and composing. Downs has enjoyed a distinguished 66-year career in radio and television as a reporter, newscaster, interviewer, narrator and host. 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. In the course of his career he has broadcast from every continent and both poles.
He has received six Emmy Awards. Downs hosted PBS’s “Live From Lincoln Center” for a decade. He helped launch the NBC TONIGHT SHOW in 1957; he anchored The TODAY SHOW from 1962 to 1971, and has broadcast numerous specials and documentaries.
In May of 1990 Mr. Downs was given the Broadcaster of the Year Award by the International Radio and Television Society for his many achievements in both media.
ARA Living Services presented Mr. Downs with their 1991 National Media Award for “excellence in long-term health care reporting.”
In 1986 Mr. Downs was awarded the National Headliner Award by the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He was also recipient of the 1985 Award of Merit from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. That year he was honored in the National Council on Family Relations film awards competition for his 20/20 report, “Diet Unto Death—Anorexia Nervosa.”
In addition, during 1982, Mr. Downs was the recipient of the Carr Van Anda Award for “enduring contribution to journalism” from the Ohio University School of Journalism, and received the Emerson College Joseph E. Connor Award. And in August of 1998, Mr. Downs received the Lowell Thomas Broadcast Journalism Award from the International Platform Association.
Hugh Downs was born in 1921 in Akron, Ohio. He attended Bluffton (Ohio) College, (now Bluffton University), Wayne University in Detroit (now Wayne State), and in New York, Columbia University, and Hunter College.
He holds a Post Masters degree in gerontology from Hunter, and a certificate in Geriatric Medicine from Mt. Sinai Medical School.
He has had honorary doctorates conferred on him by St. Johns’ University, the University of Maryland, Daniel Webster College in New Hampshire, Hunter College of the City University of New York and Arizona State University in Tempe..
Downs is a pilot, with a current medical, and several ratings from multi-engine to hot air balloon.
He has authored twelve books:
- An autobiography Yours Truly, Hugh Downs (Holt Rinehart & Winston).
- Rings Around Tomorrow, a collection of science articles he published in magazines (Doubleday).
- A Shoal of Stars, his account of sailing a small ketch across the Pacific (Doubleday).
- Potential, a psychological study of emotional maturing (Doubleday).
- Thirty Dirty Lies About Old, which debunks the myths of aging.
- The Best Years Book, a manual on late years planning (Delacorte).
- On Camera: My 10,000 Hours on Television (Putnam).
- Fifty to Forever, a manual on planning for later years (Thomas Nelson).
- Perspectives, a wide-ranging collection of radio commentaries he broadcast on ABC network radio (Turner Publishing).
- He and his wife Ruth jointly wrote a book on marital longevity—an outgrowth of a lecture they gave together at Arizona State. The book is called Pure Gold. February 20, 2009 is the date for celebration of their 65th wedding anniversary.
- In 2002, he published My America — What My Country Means to Me, an anthology of 150 essays from prominent Americans following the terrorist attack of 2001 (Scribner/Simon & Schuster.).
- Scribner’s published his book Letter to a Great Grandson (The recipient is Alexander William Black, who is now six years old…)
He has served as a member of the Board of Overseers of the Brookdale Center on Aging of Hunter College, a post he has held since 1982. From 1978 to 1998 he was chair of the U.S. Committee for UNICEF (now the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, where he is active as Chair Emeritus). He has been an advisor to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and is currently the chair of the Board of Governors for the National Space Society.in Washington, DC.
In 1998 Arizona State University upgraded its Communications Department into a school, now bearing the name THE HUGH DOWNS SCHOOL OF HUMAN COMMUNICATION. Downs is a frequent visitor and lecturer at the university.
- February, 14, 1921
- Akron, Ohio
- July, 01, 2020
- Scottsdale, Arizona
Cause of Death
- heart failure
- Christ Church of the Ascension Memory Garden
- Paradise Valley, Arizona