Hugh Downs, Broadcasting Legend, Dead at 99

by Hunter Miller

Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, Hugh Downs, passed away at age 99. According to a family statement, Downs died at his Scottsdale, Arizona home.

On Wednesday evening, the “20/20” host passed while surrounded by loved ones. A family spokeswoman stated that Downs did not pass from the coronavirus. According to the Washington Post, Downs, however, died of a heart ailment.

Downs career on television spanned more than 60 years. His major work includes the “Today Show,” “Concentration,” and “Tonight Starring Jack Paar.”

The family spokeswoman mentions Downs holding an incredible record during his time on TV. “In 1985, Hugh was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as holding the record for the greatest number of hours on network commercial television (15,188 hours), until he lost the record to Regis Philbin in 2004,” the family spokeswoman said.

Social Media Reactions to the death of Hugh Downs

A number of social media users took to Twitter to react to the news of Downs’ death.

Arguably Downs’ most notable TV credit is his anchoring job on “20/20.” He joined the show’s second episode in 1978. After the first episode, ABC News president Roone Arledge tapped Downs to take over as anchor, according to CNN.

During an interview with the Television Academy’s Archives of American Television, Downs said the opportunity “fell out of the sky on me.” He said he had wanted to do a show like “60 minutes.” Downs continued by saying: “’60 Minutes’ created the atmosphere that allowed us to flourish as a competing newsmagazine.”

Downs stayed on with “20/20” until retiring in 1999. However, Downs’ Emmy awards came for “Live From Lincoln Center” and for the PBS talk program “Over Easy.”

In addition to Downs’ Emmy Awards, he was also shown high honors by Arizona State University. In 1999, the University named its communication school after the broadcasting icon. On its website, the school says it is “aptly named for a man with a passion for life-long learning, a commitment to (and appreciation of) the role of communication in human interactions, and an ability to communicate effectively whether with one person or large and diverse groups.”

Before his broadcasting career, Downs served in the United States Army. He married his wife Ruth Shaheen Downs in 1944. She passed in 2017 at the age of 95.

[H/T Fox News, Washington Post, CNN]