Hugh Downs, Veteran Broadcaster From 20/20 and Today, Dead at 99

Hugh Downs Dead

Hugh Downs, a veteran broadcaster who is perhaps best known for co-anchoring 20/20 with Barbara Walters during the ABC newsmagazine’s heyday, died on July 1 at his Scottsdale, Ariz. home. He was 99.

According to the Washington Post, Downs’ great-niece Molly Shaheen said that the cause of death was a heart ailment, and that Downs did not have COVID-19.

After starting out his broadcasting career on radio, Downs’ first television gigs included serving as the announcer for Hawkins Falls, Population 6200, one of the medium’s first soap operas, as well as the children’s program Kukla, Fran and Ollie.

Downs went on to be the announcer for Jack Parr’s The Tonight Show in 1957, and stayed with the talker until 1962, when Ed Herlihy took over. In 1958, Downs began a decade-long run hosting TV’s original incarnation of the game show Concentration. He then hosted NBC’s Today from 1962 to 1971, where he first met Barbara Walters and helped usher along her about-to-explode career. From 1978, starting with 20/20‘s second episode, he co-anchored that news program until his retirement in 1999.

Across his career, Downs was a seven-time Emmy nominee, grabbing gold twice.

In 1985, Downs was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as holding the record for the greatest number of hours on network commercial television (with 15,188), until he ceded the title to Regis Philbin in 2004.