‘Jeopardy!’ Champion Reveals How Her Life Story Is Similar to Alex Trebek’s

by Chris Haney

On Monday’s episode, contestant Verlinda Johnson Henning became a Jeopardy! champion, and recently opened up about sharing a similar life path as legendary host Alex Trebek.

Henning, who hails from Memphis, Tennesse, recently shared some of her life story with the Daily Memphian. She became a local hero after defeating previous champion Julia Markham on Monday night. Although she failed to retain her title as Jeopardy! champion the next night, Henning left her mark on the game show.

Yet similar to many others’ lives, Henning’s journey hasn’t always been filled with victories. In 1999, she lost her husband, Darrell, on June 8th of that year. At just 45 years old, Darrell passed away from a mysterious infection. She may not have continued her win streak on Tuesday night, but she was on national television on the 22-year anniversary of his death.

“I’m a person of faith,” Henning told the Daily Memphian. “I believe Darrell knows that I did well. I think he knows that I wish he could be here in person to share this with me. But it makes what is traditionally a really tough day, well, I’ll just say it, it helps.”

The contestant’s path to Jeopardy! has been a long, arduous journey through life’s ups and downs. But she didn’t give up and kept pressing forward. From that standpoint, Henning has a lot in common with Trebek.

“You have to put one foot in front of the other, go through it, whatever it looks like for you. You’ll find people and places and things along the way that help you. I know I did,” she explained.

How ‘Jeopardy!’ Host Alex Trebek’s Less Than Perfect Upbringing Influenced His Eventual Success

While most remember the late Alex Trebek and his iconic career on Jeopardy!, many don’t realize that he had a hard path to stardom. Since we saw Trebek on television for four decades, most of us likely thought he’d always lived an easy life in Hollywood. Yet that wasn’t the case at all, especially while growing up in Canada.

The Jeopardy! host’s life started out humbly in Ontario. It’s for that reason he never forgot his roots even as he came into fame. He never lost his work ethic and didn’t take a paycheck for granted.

For example, previous to hosting Jeopardy!, he also hosted a show called Pitfall. However, the company that produced the show went bankrupt before Trebek could even cash his salary check. Therefore he decided to keep the $49,000 check on his wall as a symbolic reminder to how quickly good fortunes can pass.

During a 2019 interview with CTV, Trebek opened up about his poor upbringing and how it affected his views on wealth. It’s one of the many reasons he often gave back to his community.

“Well, I think it makes me appreciate the hardships that affect many other people. And since I’m in a position to help, why not do something to help make their lives a little easier,” Trebek explained. “Give them the break that I had in a different context. And maybe that will turn their lives around, as it did mine.”