Richard Dawson, Original Family Feud Host and One of Hogan's Heroes, Dies at 79

Richard Dawson DiesRichard Dawson, the original host of TV’s Family Feud and one of Hogan’s Heroes, passed away on Saturday night. He was 79.

Dawson’s son Gary shared the sad news via Facebook, saying, “It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my father passed away this evening from complications due to esophageal cancer. He was surrounded by his family. He was an amazing talent, a loving husband, a great dad, and a doting grandfather. He will be missed but always remembered.”

Born in Gosport, Hampsire, England, Dawson’s first major acting role after moving to Los Angeles was as Cpl. Peter Newkirk on the war-themed comedy Hogan’s Heroes, which ran from 1965 to ’71. After that show’s run, he appeared as a panelist on such game/quiz shows as I’ve Got a Secret and Match Game.

Fun fact: So popular was Dawson on Match Game that contestants almost always chose him as their Head-to-Head bonus round partner — to the point that a rule change was made where the celeb partner was randomly selected for the player.

As a host, Dawson’s credits include Family Feud, which debuted in July 1976 and where he was famous for smooching female players, and what I always felt was the too-short-lived Masquerade Party.

On the big screen, Dawson tweaked his TV persona by playing a malevolent game show host/producer in 1987’s The Running Man, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

UPDATE: GSN (the Game Show Network) will tribute Dawson on Thursday, June 7, from 7 to 11 pm EST, with a marathon of his most iconic moments from Family Feud and Match Game.

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41 Comments
  1. mia says:

    I know I’m way out of the demographic at 25, but I grew up watching old reruns of Match Game.
    .
    This is so sad. My mother is going to be devastated.

    • Julie (@CDNspnFAN) says:

      Im 23, but right there with you. RIP Richard!

    • Mav says:

      Mine too and my Gram…Dawson and The Feud was a staple of our family TV time in the mid 70s and early 80s. My Mom and Gram adored him and I admired him. He was smooth without being smarmy, witty without being cheesy. He was an ICON.

    • Paige says:

      I’m 21 but it’s the same for me too.

      It’s really such a shame, he never ceased to entertain with his wit.

  2. Dr. Bombay says:

    Richard Dawson, Charles Nelson Reilly and Brett Somers were so hysterical together on Match Game. And his reactions to the stupid answers some people gave on Family Feud were just brilliant. Thanks for the laughs, Mr. Dawson!

    • Jennifer McKenna says:

      I know. I caught an episode of Match Game once and now its in the top 3 on my DVR list. I record it everytime it comes on.

  3. TV Gord says:

    He was just great on Match Game and on Family Feud. I’m very sad today, but happy I have the All-Star Family Feud DVDs to celebrate Richard at his best today! I expect GSN will do an amazing lineup of tribute shows, hopefully including the Family Feud where one of his future wives was a contestant. I always seem to miss that one when it’s rerun!

    • raelee says:

      I love watching his Family Feuds and the Match Game, and they do ALWAYS pick him, it was always a surprise when they didn’t. Explains why the changed to the random spinner thing. I would’ve picked him too.

  4. DebbieLG says:

    RIP Richard. I grew up watching reruns of Hogan’s Heroes as well as Family Feud and Match Game. Sad news.

  5. vaianp says:

    My grandmother absolutely loved watching on Family Feud. she passed away 2 years ago, and it’s just sad to see this and feel another chilhood memory fade away.

  6. Tran says:

    The best Family Feud host ever not to mention kissing the female contestants on every show and was so hilarious as Newkirk on Hogan’s Heroes. RIP the star of Family Feud… Richard Dawson. :-(

  7. Dave says:

    Rest In Peace Mr. Dawson.

  8. Lorie says:

    So sad. I remember him fondly from Family Feud. RIP, Richard Dawson.

  9. MatchGameAddict says:

    I am so sad. I STILL watch MATCH GAME ’74 repeats on GSN and think that show is more entertaining that the rest of the crap on TV. And now most of them are gone — host Gene Rayburn, panelists Brett Sommers, Charles Nelson Reilly and now Richard. Sad. ;-(

    • MatchGameAddict says:

      more entertaining than*, not that

    • CJ says:

      When you think about it, it isn’t really all THAT sad–these were people at or sometimes beyond the peak of their careers (meaning they were at least middle-aged), plus the show was almost 40 years ago. It would be a shock if most of them *weren’t* dead.

  10. patricia magliochetti says:

    Thats so sad,i grew up watching family feud,hogans heros,my prayers are with his family and friends,may he rest in peace

  11. Joy says:

    No offence to others but Family Fued has never been as good as when Richard was the host. I’m in the age group to have watched that and Match Game, Hogan’s Heroes when they were broadcast. RIP Richard.

  12. Cathy says:

    Had such a crush on him when I was a kid because of Hogan’s Heroes. Will always hold a soft spot in my heart. RIP, Richard Dawson.

  13. Preston says:

    A very classy individual—

  14. Zach says:

    Loved him on match game! RIP

  15. Preston says:

    Best quote/running man-“who loves you and who do you love!!!

    • Brian says:

      True! Richard Dawson was the bright spot of that very bad movie. I watched Hogans heroes during it’s first run and subsequent runs and always thought Dawson and Ivan Dixon (Kinch) were the two best performers.

  16. Renaak says:

    Besides the already mentioned TV roles, I really enjoyed him in Running Man playing an “evil” gameshow host.

  17. Cathy says:

    This is really sad to hear! Richard Dawson was the best host Family Fued ever had and I to grew up watching all these shows when they were new! As far as the comment by CJ it doesn’t matter what age someone is it is sad when they pass away! Not only is your comment disrespectful of Mr. Dawson it is also disrespectful of his surviving family! RIP Richard Dawson!!

    • tripoli says:

      I don’t think CJ meant any disrespect. He’s/she’s just pointing out that these people had very full, long and prosperous lives and it’s not so shocking to hear of their passing due to their age. I have seen many a Richard Dawson game show and am sad to hear he lost his battle.

  18. I always watched “Match Game” after school. My family talked about going on Family Feud in the 70’s we almost did. Richard was my mothers favorite. Great memories, Rest In Peace, Mr Dawson. Bob C.

  19. Susy says:

    I am saddened by the news of Mr. Dawson’s passing. I grew up watching his antics on Family Feud and I enjoy watching Match Game reruns. The best host of Family Feud, in my opinion, never to be equaled. Rest in peace and thanks for the good memories, Mr. Dawson.

  20. big cheddar says:

    Aww – who didn’t want to get a peck on the cheek from Richard Dawson? RIP Mr. Dawson!

    Side note – I had no idea he was born in England!

  21. Callie says:

    I’m only 19 & I LOVED watching Match Game reruns on GSN. I always wished that it was still on so I could be a contestant on the show! He was a great host.

  22. Allison says:

    Very sad to hear of his passing. He was my favorite Family Feud host. R.I.P.

  23. Lucy says:

    When I was unemployed last year, I discovered Match Game and Family Feud (with Mr Dawson), along with Pyramid, on GSN and fell in love with Richard. I loved how he was so witty, how he and the others on Match Game got on so well and how he was the perfect host on Match Game. The pure silliness and innocent fun just buoyed me enough to get through my depression. So soon after losing Dick Clark, it is a sad day.

  24. Lucy says:

    duh, *host on Family Feud.

  25. JOE S HILL says:

    The passing of Richard Dawson is indeed,painful and Sad! and,,with the acception of one
    cast member,Dawson was one of the finest players in CBS’s “HOGAN’S HEROES” TV
    series,with the way he could do all those outrageous German accents,second only to co-
    star Larry Hovis. in fact,Hanna-Barbera also used Dawson’s voice in “OLIVER TWIST AND
    THE ARTFUL DODGER” for ABC’s “SATURDAY SUPERSTAR MOVIE” in 1972. but what-
    ever else he was,,Richard Dawson will be missed,as he was Highly talented-may he Rest in
    Peace!

  26. Grace says:

    Richard was a hoot!! He will be remembered fondly. R.I.P.

  27. Pickle8182 says:

    I remember my mom writing down the questions and answers so we all could play together at the dinner table.

  28. John Burks says:

    Grew up watching him host F.F. as a kid, loved the show. He made the show interesting.(no other F.F. host except Steve Harvey has made the game fun like Mr. Dawson). He always made you feel as if you were there on the show.( R.I.P)

  29. John Burks says:

    Also very good actor

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