SCOTTSDALE, AZ (CelebrityAccess) — Hugh Downs, the veteran news anchor, television presenter, producer and composer has died at the age of 99.
According to the Washington Post, his great niece Molly Shaheen confirmed that Downs died at his home in Scottsdale, from complications of a heart ailiment.
A prolific television personality, Downs was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1995 as the holder of the world’s record for the greatest number of hours on network commercial television (15,188 hours) and held that accolade until 2004 when he was surpassed by television personality Regis Philbin.
Downs got his start in the broadcast industry on radio, landing a job his first job as a news announcer and program director at WLOK in Lima, Ohio and then moving to WWJ in Detroit before his career was sidelined by a stint in the army during World War 2.
Following the war, he made his television debut on Chicago station WBKB-TV (now WBBM-TV) and was soon serving as the announcer for everything from Hawkins Falls, the first successful television soap to 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.
However, he first broke through as a television personality in his own right when he became the announcer and sidekick for Jack Paar on the The Tonight Show starting in 1957.
He is perhaps best known for his almost decade-long tenure as the co-host with Barbara Walters of NBC’s “Today Show” which offered national news headlines, along with interviews, and lighter fare such as lifestyle features and gimmicks such as the chimpanzee J. Fred Muggs, who served as the show’s mascot.
Downs and Walters also teamed up to host the long-running prime-time news magazine 20/20, starting with the show’s second episode in 1978 to his retirement in 1999.
Apart from his career in front of the camera, Downs was a published composer and hosted the PBS showcase for classical music, Live from Lincoln Center from 1990–96.
Downs was preceded in death by his wife Ruth Shaheen Downs, who died in 2017.