Hugh Downs, Longtime ’20/20’ Anchor, Dies at 99

Downs’ broadcasting career spanned more than six decades

Last Updated: July 2, 2020 @ 12:19 PM

Hugh Downs, the legendary TV broadcaster whose career has spanned more than six decades, died on Wednesday. He was 99.

A great-niece, Molly Shaheen, confirmed his death to local news in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Downs had been living. Sheehan and Downs reps did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for confirmation.

Downs was best known for co-anchoring “20/20” with Barbara Walters from the show’s second episode in 1978 until his retirement in 1999. His lengthy broadcast career also includes work on “Today Show,” “Concentration” and “Tonight Starring Jack Paar”.

He first served as the announcer for “Hawkins Falls” — the first successful television soap opera — in 1950. In 1957, he replaced Franklin Pangborn as the announcer of “The Tonight Show” with host Jack Parr. (Parr was the predecessor to Johnny Carson.)

In 1958, Downs began hosting the game show “Concentration,” a gig he held for more than a decade. From 1962-1971, he joined “Today” as a host. Among his colleagues during his nine-year run included Barbara Walters, who he would team up again with for the syndicated talk show “Not For Women Only,” and later, “20/20.”

In 1978, Downs began anchoring “20/20’s” second episode after original hosts Howard Hayes and Robert Hughes were fired after bad reviews. Walters joined the evening news magazine in 1979, and the duo hosted together until his retirement in 1999.

A patron of the arts, Downs also hosted PBS’ “Live From Lincoln Center” from 1990 to 1996.

At one time, Downs was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as holding the record for the greatest number of hours on network commercial television.

In 1998, Arizona State named its communications school The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.

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