Downs, Hugh (Malcolm) 1921-
DOWNS, Hugh (Malcolm) 1921-
PERSONAL: Born February 14, 1921, in Akron, OH; son of Milton Howard (a businessman) and Edith (Hick) Downs; married Ruth Shaheen, February 20, 1944; children: Hugh Raymond, Deirdre Lynn. Education:Attended Bluffton College, 1938-39, Wayne University (now Wayne State University), 1940-41, and Columbia University, 1957-58; Hunter College, degree in gerontology; Mt. Sinai Hospital, CME (geriatrics), 1992. Politics: "Non-partisan." Hobbies and other interests: Science and technology, music, painting, astronomy, skin-diving, and aviation.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Box 1132, Carefree, AZ 85331; ABC News, 77 West 66th St., New York, NY 10023-6201.
CAREER: Broadcast journalist, host, author. WLOK radio, Lima, OH, staff announcer, 1939, program director, 1939-40; WWJ radio, Detroit, MI, staff announcer, 1940-42; WMAQ, Chicago, IL, announcer, disc jockey, interviewer, and master of ceremonies on various television and radio programs, 1943-54; NBC, New York, NY, announcer for Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, 1949-58, The Home Show, 1954-57, Sid Caesar's Hour, 1956-57, The Jack Paar Show, 1957-62, and The Tonight Show, 1962; host of Your Luncheon Date, 1951, The Today Show, 1962-72, Concentration, 1968-69, and Monitor (radio); ABC, New York, 20/20, coanchor, 1978-99, and ABC News Saturday Night, anchor, 1998; PBS, Over Easy, host, 1981, and Live from Lincoln Center, host, 1990—; actor in summer stock productions and in television dramas and specials; Raylin Productions, Inc. (film production company), chairman of the board, 1960—. Associations include National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), advisory council; Planned Parenthood World Population, board of directors; Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, visiting fellow; special consultant to the United Nations on refugee problems in the Middle East; United States Committee for UNICEF, chairman of the board; Menninger Foundation, trustee; Brookdale Center on Aging, Hunter College, board of overseers; consultant to Westinghouse Laboratories, Ford Foundation, and other organizations. Military service: U.S. Army, 1941-43.
MEMBER: Actors Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, National Space Society (chairman of the board of governors), National Audubon Society (member of board of directors, 1971—), American Oceanic Organization (member of advisory council, 1972—), Royal Canadian Astronomical Society, British Interplanetary Society, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Delta Chi.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fame Awards, 1959-64, for best announcer of the year; Order of Lincoln, State of Illinois, 1967; the Hugh Downs Award in Public Affairs was established by Morris Brown college, 1968; D.L., 1968, and Churchill fellowship, 1969, both from Westminster College; Grammy Award nomination (shared), best recording for children, 1964, for Britten: Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Emmy Awards for individual achievement in daytime programming, 1969, for Concentration, and 1970, for The Today Show; Emmy nomination, individual achievement in cultural documentary programming, 1970, for Survival on the Prairie; Emmy Award, best host of a talk or service series, 1981, for Over Easy; Carr Van Anda Award, E. W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University, 1982; Connor Award, Phi Alpha Tau, Emerson College, 1982; Emmy Award nomination (shared), best coverage of a segment of a continuing news story, 1983, for "Till Death Do Us Part," 20/20; Award of Merit, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1985; National Headliner Award, National Conference of Christians and Jews, 1986; named Broadcaster of the Year, International Radio and Television Society, 1990; Robert L. Robinson Award, American Psychiatric Association, 1991, for Depression: Beyond the Darkness; National Media Award, ARA Living Services, 1991; Daytime Emmy Award, for Live from Lincoln Center: Yo Yo Ma in Concert; inducted into Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame, 1996; entry in The Guinness Book of World Records, for having logged 10,000 hours on commercial television; ICON Award, UCLA Center on Aging, 2002; honorary doctoral degrees from Bluffton College, St. John's University, University of Maryland, Daniel Webster College, Hunter College, and others.
Yours Truly (autobiography), Holt, Rinehart, and Winston (New York, NY), 1960.
A Shoal of Stars, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1967.
Rings around Tomorrow (essays), introduction by Isaac Asimov, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1970.
Potential: The Way to Emotional Maturity, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1973.
Thirty Dirty Lies about Old, Argus Communications, 1979.
(With Richard J. Roll) The Best Years Book: How to Plan for Fulfillment, Security, and Happiness in the Retirement Years, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1980.
On Camera: My 10,000 Hours on Television, Putnam (New York, NY), 1986.
Fifty to Forever, T. N. Publishers (Nashville, TN), 1994.
Perspectives (radio essays), Turner (Atlanta, GA), 1995.
Greater Phoenix: The Desert in Bloom, Towery (Memphis, TN), 1999.
(Author of foreword) Jeff Alan, Responsible Journalism: A Practical Guide for Working and Aspiring Journalists, Bonus Books (Chicago, IL), 2001.
(With wife, Ruth Downs) Pure Gold: A Lifetime of Love and Marriage (booklet), self-published, 2001.
(Editor) My America: What My Country Means to Me by 150 Americans from All Walks of Life, Scribner (New York, NY), 2002.
Letter to a Great Grandson: A Message of Love, Advice, and Hopes for the Future, Scribner (New York, NY), 2004.
Recordings include, with Harvey Wheeler, Mass Media and the Future, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, 1972, and Historical Highlights from Space, commentary by Wernher von Braun, National Space Institute, 1976, and An Evening with Hugh Downs.
SIDELIGHTS: A popular television personality for decades, Hugh Downs began his broadcasting career in Lima, Ohio at the age of eighteen, earning $7.50 a week. In 1945, when Downs made his first television appearance in Chicago, there were fewer than 400 television sets in the city. Downs, a descendant of frontiersman and Tennessee Congressman Davy Crockett, first gained national prominence as the intelligent, low-key, and soft-spoken co-host/announcer of NBC's Jack Paar Show and Tonight show, providing what several critics consider the perfect balance to the show's then emotional and volatile host, Jack Paar. Later, Downs brought these same qualities to his job as the anchor of the morning news and talk show, Today, as well as to his position as the host of ABC's news and features program, 20/20. which he co-hosted for many years with Barbara Walters.
Off-screen, Downs has pursued a variety of interests and causes, such as science and technology, population control, and the concerns of growing old, which has been the subject of several of his books. Down's interest in the sciences is the focal point of Rings around Tomorrow, a collection of short essays. A Library Journal reviewer commented that "the essays furnish an insight into the inner soul of a thinker whose interest in the problems of humanity is far from cursory."
Downs has addressed important issues in both 20/20 segments and in special reports, most notably about health topics. In 1985, he hosted the three-hour "Growing Old in America," and in 1989, "The National Cholesterol Test." "Depression: Beyond the Darkness" (1990) received an award from the American Psychiatric Association. Perhaps the most amazing report was Downs's own story of his double knee-replacement surgery in 1996, which he reported on two weeks later. His other documentaries and specials have focused on the environment, history, and culture.
Downs retired in 1999 to do some of the things he and his wife had always hoped to enjoy. They maintain homes in both New York and Arizona, have traveled, and the couple wrote Pure Gold: A Lifetime of Love and Marriage, a small volume about their long relationship. Downs collected more than fifty ten-minute essays from his radio show in a book by the same name. Perspectives contains commentary on a wide variety of subjects, from tipping to animal rights. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that when Downs explains science, "he is sparklingly clear and painlessly didactic."
He is also editor of My America: What My Country Means to Me by 150 Americans from All Walks of Life. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented on the fact that although the contributors include a teacher, a firefighter, and a nurse, the others "are on the top rung of the status ladder." They include Mayo Angelou, Jesse Ventura, Walter Cronkite, Michael Eisner, Jamie Farr, Margaret Chow, Pete Hamill, and other notables.
Booklist's Michelle Kaske found essays by people who grew up in ethnic homes, like Farr and Chow, to be "the most thought-provoking." Kaske also favored first-generation Irish American writer Hamill's account of being raised by immigrants, as well as other contributions that "urge Americans to embrace diversity and multiculturalism to fight against ignorance and fear."
Downs's most recent book is Letter to a Great Grandson: A Message of Love, Advice, and Hopes for the Future, released in 2004.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 24, Gale (Detroit, MI), pp. 76-78.
Downs, Hugh, Yours Truly, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston (New York, NY), 1960.
Downs, Hugh, On Camera: My 10,000 Hours on Television, Putnam (New York, NY), 1986.
Downs, Hugh, and Ruth Downs, Pure Gold: A Lifetime of Love and Marriage (booklet), self-published, 2001.
Earl Blackwell's Celebrity Register 1990, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999, p. 130.
Booklist, May 15, 1995, Jennifer Henderson, review of Perspectives, p. 1612; September 1, 2002, Michelle Kaske, review of My America: What My Country Means to Me by 150 Americans from All Walks of Life, p. 28.
Library Journal, February 15, 1970, review of Rings around Tomorrow.
Publishers Weekly, April 24, 1995, review of Perspectives, p. 56; September 2, 2002, review of My America, p. 71.*