One of the all-time biggest legends of the small screen is no longer with us, as word is coming in that Hugh Downs has passed away at the age of 99. According to a statement released by his family, Downs died on Wednesday while surrounded by family at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is preceded in death by his wife, Ruth Shaheen, who died at the age of 95 in 2017. "Amid all of Hugh's exceptional life achievements, was his love for his family. Hugh Downs and Ruth Shaheen, who were married when Hugh was 23, spent nearly 75 years together as a vision of love, partnership and creativity," a statement from the family reads.
Well known for co-hosting 20/20 with Barbara Walters for many years among many other programs, Downs was watched by millions every night for decades. In fact, Downs has spent so much time on television that for many years, he'd held the world record as recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most airtime on the small screen with over 15,000 hours televised. Regis Philbin would break that record in 2004, following Downs' retirement in 1999. In acknowledgement of his impressive career, Downs has also had a school named after him, which would be the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University.
Hugh Malcom Downs was born in Akron, Ohio, on Valentine's Day in 1921. After graduating from college and serving in the United States Army during World War II, Downs utilized his voice talents to work in radio at the NBC radio network in Chicago. He had also pursued acting roles during this time as well, breaking into the business as the announcer for the series Hawkins Falls in 1950. He'd find steady work announcing for other shows during the '50s and '60s, which includes hosting the game show Concentration for over a decade, starting in 1958.
Downs is also widely recognized for serving as the co-host of the NBC news program The Today Show He also served as Jack Paar's announcer for The Tonight Show between 1957 and 1962. Some of his other earlier work also includes co-hosting the TV show Not for Women Only with Barbara Walters in the mid '70s. Of course, Downs and Walters would later reunite for ABC's news show 20/20 with Downs coming in as a co-host starting with the second episode in 1978 until he retired in 1999. In 1981, Downs managed to grab a Daytime Emmy Award win for Outstanding Talk Show Host for his work on Over Easy.
Spending half a century on television has made Downs one of the most recognizable TV stars from years past, and he will most certainly be missed by many. It's also clear from the response just how much he was appreciated, and the legendary star will not be forgotten anytime soon. We extend our deepest condolences to the family at this time. May he rest in peace. This news comes to us from ABC.